SAG-AFTRA union takes over Times Square with star-studded strike rally

New York, New York - The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) labor union took over New York City on Tuesday to host a massive rally in Times Square, and TAG24 NEWS was live at the scene.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) labor union held a massive rally in New York City on Tuesday, and TAG24 NEWS was live at the scene.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) labor union held a massive rally in New York City on Tuesday, and TAG24 NEWS was live at the scene.  © TAG24 / Rey Harris

On Tuesday, hundreds of enthusiastic guild members and supporters gathered in a small pedestrian plaza in the heart of Manhattan, surrounded by towering billboards that aired advertisements from some of the corporations the guild has been striking against since earlier this month, including Netflix and Disney.

The two labor unions that make up the SAG-AFTRA were both formed in the 1930s and have been fighting ever since for the rights of media artists, which includes everyone from actors and broadcast journalists to stunt performers.

But much has changed in the media landscape since the 1930s. Streaming has completely changed how people consume media, and the stars of media content simply don't get their fair share of generated revenue.

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There's also growing concern about the advancement of technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how its capabilities could put many in the media industry out of work or allow companies to replicate an actor's image without their consent.

As large corporations continue to get bigger, with companies like Netflix and Disney making billions in record earnings in recent years, unions have been trying to negotiate better deals for writers and actors to no avail.

July 25 marked the 12th day of the SAG-AFTRA strike, who have joined in solidarity with the Writers Guild of America (WGA), who have been at it for 85.

And as the Times Square gathering proves, the union isn't planning to back down anytime soon.

SAG-AFTRA leaders, members, and celebrities hit the stage for fair contracts

Long-time members and celebrity actors spoke at the event, sharing what has inspired them to join the picket line.
Long-time members and celebrity actors spoke at the event, sharing what has inspired them to join the picket line.  © TAG24 / Rey Harris

Tuesday's event, titled "Rock the City for a Fair Contract," brought out a ton of longtime union members and working actors to share what has inspired them to join the picket line.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director at SAG-AFTRA, described the strike as "the result of big corporations that refuse to treat our members fairly."

He spoke critically of the CEOs of companies the union is in negotiations with, as they refuse to agree to terms such as streaming revenue for actors and wage increases due to inflation.

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What made this event one of the organization's biggest yet was the list of celebrities that also took the stage to speak, including Christine Baranski, Steven Lang, Steve Buscemi, F. Murray Abraham, and William Pierce.

Actor and singer Tituss Burgess sang a rendition of the song Take Me to the World from the musical Sondheim on Sondheim.

Christian Slater, an iconic actor who has been in countless films, told a brief story of his late father, who was also a SAG member and an actor, but far less known in his time. As his father became ill, the union provided resources that Slater said became "integral... to his dignity and survival."

SAG-AFTRA members call out studio heads at Times Square rally

Slater continued to outline the reason so many have banded together, bringing most Hollywood filming to a halt.

"We're all here together to secure fair wages and ensure the survival of our health care, our pensions, and our retirement," he added. "Our old earning structures are obsolete."

The final speaker was acclaimed Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, who called out Disney CEO Bob Iger, stating, "We don't expect you to understand who we are, but we ask you to hear us."

"And lastly, and most importantly," Cranston concluded, "we will not allow you to take away our dignity!"

Cover photo: TAG24 / Rey Harris

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