On Friday, July 14, just after midnight Pacific Time, SAG-AFTRA, one of the largest entertainment unions across the globe, began their first major strike since 1960, with many LGBTQ+ actors joining thousands of their colleagues on the picket lines.
The union, which represents over 160,000 workers in the entertainment and media industry, joined the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA), which has been striking since May 2. Both groups call for an increase in compensation from residuals earned from streaming services, as well as fairer working conditions across the industry as concerns grow over studios utilising AI to replace people.
The unions have been in negotiations with trade organisations representing major American production companies and studios, and have failed to reach an agreement that the unions feel is fair toward their members.
One of the many LGBTQ+ actors on strike is Mara Wilson, known for her roles in shows such as BoJack Horseman and Disney’s Big Hero Six: The Series. Wilson, who is openly bisexual, took to Twitter on July 13 to voice her concerns over the lack of financial compensation that she and her fellow actors have received for their roles. She shared that, throughout her career, she has never been able to qualify for SAG-AFTRA’s health insurance plan, which requires a member to make at least $26,470 a year, or about €23,600.
I haven’t acted much as an adult, but I WAS on a recurring character on one of the most critically acclaimed animated shows of all time, as well playing an actual Disney villain.
But thanks to streaming, I have never once made enough to qualify for SAG-AFTRA healthcare.
— Mara Wilson (@MaraWilson) July 13, 2023
Wilson isn’t alone, with other LGBTQ+ actors sharing their stories of why they’re going on strike.
Transgender actor and activist Laverne Cox recently posted an article to her Instagram page describing the experiences her Orange is the New Black co-stars faced trying to make a living while Netflix, the show’s studio, raked in billions of dollars of revenue from their work.
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While the strikes continue in cities across the US and beyond, union leaders are uncertain as to how long it will be until a fair deal can be agreed upon.
In the meantime, Star Trek: Discovery cast member and openly gay actor Wilson Cruz has created a Twitter thread for resources fans and non-union-members can use to help support the cast and crew members of their favourite productions.
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