SAG-AFTRA Advises Members To “Continue To Work” In Event Of A WGA Strike

On the eve of a threatened writers’ strike, SAG-AFTRA is advising its members that they should “continue to work” in the event of a writers’ strike, which could come as soon as Monday night at midnight.

Contract talks between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have wrapped for the night, but they’ll resume tomorrow.

A statement SAG-AFTRA put out to its members tonight asks: “If the WGA goes on strike and I am required to show up to work, should I refuse to cross a picket line as a SAG-AFTRA member?”

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The answer, SAG-AFTRA says, is: “If you are contracted to work on a project that continues production while the WGA is on strike, you are legally obligated to continue working by your personal services agreement and the ‘no strike’ clause in our collective bargaining agreements.” Actors can also “continue to audition for work” if they choose to.  

The guild went on to say that “like most unions, SAG-AFTRA has a no-strike clause in our Codified Basic Agreement,” which states: The Union agrees that, during the effective term hereof, it will not call or engage in a strike affecting motion picture production against any Producer signatory hereto.”

The contract also says that “The Union agrees that it will take such affirmative action as may be necessary and lawful in order to require its members to perform their respective obligations under the provisions of this Section.”

“SAG-AFTRA therefore advises its members to continue to work,” the statement says, adding that “the WGA is aware of the requirements of our no strike clause and our members’ individual personal service agreements, and the fact that the labor law protections that apply to striking workers do not apply to other workers whose contracts are still in effect.”

The actors’ union also advised its members that “if you as an individual decide not to report to work as required, you may be subject to breach of contract claims or be subject to termination by the Producer.”

IATSE and the Teamsters also have “no strike” clauses in their contracts, but their leaders have told their members that their contract give their members “the legal right” to honor the WGA’s picket lines, if it comes to that.

The Directors Guild, meanwhile, has told its members that while its “no-strike clauses are clear … as an individual, you cannot be forced to work. If you, as an individual, refuse to cross a picket line and perform your DGA-covered services, then your employer has the right to replace you; if you have a personal services agreement, you may be subject to claims for breach of contract.”

SAG-AFTRA, whose own contract expires June 30, is scheduled to start its negotiations with the AMPTP on June 7. “If a WGA strike is called before that date, we will inform members of any change in the timing of our negotiations,” the guild said tonight, noting that it “will do everything in our power to reach an agreement with the AMPTP and we regard a strike as a last resort.

In a message to their members tonight, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher and National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said that “Just as unity and solidarity among our members is the ultimate source of our power as a union, standing together with our sister unions multiplies our power and gives us all the strongest position to ensure our large corporate employers step up and treat fairly and justly the people who are the creative source of the industry’s success. SAG-AFTRA’s National Board has adopted a resolution of strong support for the Writers Guild of America in their negotiations with the AMPTP. If the WGA finds it necessary to strike in order to achieve a fair deal for their members, although SAG-AFTRA cannot presently go on strike with them, we will be there to support and stand beside them. 

“We continue to hope that the AMPTP will step up and make a fair deal with the WGA and avoid the necessity of a strike.”

The WGA, meanwhile, is ready for a strike but would prefer a good deal. Picket signs are at the ready, and the WGA West has amassed a whopping $20 million strike fund to provide loans or grants to members “adversely affected by a strike.” That’s more than double the $9.2 million it had going into the 100-day strike of 2007-08, when more than $3 million in strike loans was distributed to members during and after the walkout.

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