Read SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher’s fiery speech announcing actors’ strike

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher delivers a speech from behind a lectern
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher delivered a scorching speech announcing that actors are going on strike.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

In her speech Thursday announcing that Hollywood actors are going on strike, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher likened operating under the current film and TV contract in the midst of sweeping industry changes including AI and streaming to “moving around furniture on the Titanic.”

“You cannot change the business model as much as it has changed and not expect the contract to change too,” she said in an impassioned speech at the union’s headquarters in Los Angeles.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers issued a statement during the SAG-AFTRA news conference saying that the actors’ union had dismissed an offer of “historic pay and residual increases,” including the “highest percentage increase in minimums in 35 years.”


SAG-AFTRA has approved a deal from the studios to end its historic strike. The actors were on strike for more than 100 days.

Nov. 10, 2023

“AMPTP member companies entered the negotiations with SAG-AFTRA with the goal of forging a new, mutually beneficial contract,” the statement read. “The AMPTP presented a deal that offered historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses for SAG-AFTRA members. A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life. The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.”

Here is Drescher’s speech in its entirety:

Thank you, Duncan [Crabtree-Ireland, SAG negotiator], and thank you everybody for coming to this press conference today. It’s really important that this negotiation be covered because the eyes of the world, and particularly the eyes of labor, are upon us. What happens here is important because what’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor by means of when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run.

We have a problem and we are experiencing that right at this moment. This is a very seminal hour for us. I went in in earnest thinking that we would be able to avert a strike. The gravity of this move is not lost on me or our negotiating committee or our board members who have voted unanimously to proceed with a strike. It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands, if not millions, of people all across this country and around the world. Not only members of this union but people who work in other industries that service the people that work in this industry.

And so it came with great sadness that we came to this crossroads, but we had no choice. We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us. I cannot believe it, quite frankly: How far apart we are on so many things. How they plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right, when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment. We stand in solidarity, in unprecedented unity.

Our union and our sister unions and the unions around the world are standing by us, as well as other labor unions, because at some point the jig is up. You cannot keep being dwindled and marginalized and disrespected and dishonored. The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, AI. This is a moment of history that is a moment of truth. If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble. We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines. And Big Business who cares more about Wall Street than you and your family. Most of Americans don’t have more than $500 in an emergency. This is a very big deal and it weighed heavy on us. But at some point, you have to say, “No, we’re not going to take this anymore. You people are crazy. What are you doing? Why are you doing this to us?

Privately they all say, “We’re the center of the wheel. Everybody else tinkers around our artistry,‘“but actions speak louder than words and there was nothing there. It was insulting. So we came together in strength and solidarity and unity with the largest strike authorization vote in our union’s history. And we made the hard decision that we tell you as we stand before you today. This is major, it’s really serious, and it’s going to impact every single person that is in labor. We are fortunate enough to be in a country right now that happens to be labor-friendly. And yet we were facing opposition that was so labor-unfriendly, so tone deaf, to what we are saying.


You cannot change the business model as much as it has changed and not expect the contract to change too. We are not going to keep doing incremental changes on a contract that no longer honors what is happening right now with this business model that was foisted upon us. What are we doing? Moving around furniture on the Titanic? It’s crazy. So the jig is up, AMPTP. We stand tall. You have to wake up and smell the coffee. We are labor and we stand tall and we demand respect and to be honored for our contribution. You share the wealth because you can not exist without us. Thank you.