Around 300 Canadian union members held a rally Friday outside the Toronto offices of Amazon and Apple to support the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes stateside.
“The challenges we’re facing are the same ones ACTRA is facing now. It’s a battle against corporate greed and an economic system that rewards corporate leaders for cutting costs, wreaking havoc on our communities and destroying the livelihoods of countless hard-working individuals,” Law and Order: SVU alum and SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles vp Michelle Hurd told the Toronto rally organized by ACTRA, the Canadian actors union representing around 28,000 performers countrywide, except in British Columbia.
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SAG-AFTRA has been on strike since July 14, and the Writers Guild of America began its labor action May 2. Also attending the Toronto rally was NCIS actor Lauren Holly, who is both an ACTRA and SAG-AFTRA card holder and who touted the need for unity among North American unions.
“Most actors and writers have lost the ability to make a decent living. This entertainment industry is massive and we’re the engine that powers it. How is it possible in this thriving industry most of us live below the poverty line, or soon will?” Holly questioned about fellow actors on both sides of the border.
ACTRA will see its own contract with North American producers — including representatives of studios and streamers aligned with the AMPTP that increasingly shoot original movies and TV series in Canada — expire, requiring renewal talks at the end of 2024.
“Their fight is our fight. Their issues are our issues,” Eleanor Noble, ACTRA national president, said during a speech that cited the actor union’s 16-month battle against the Institute of Canadian Agencies and their ad agencies that have locked out ACTRA performers as part of stalled contract talks.
Hurd tells The Hollywood Reporter that the writers and actors strikes were part of a larger labor movement looking for fair wages and workplace protections as corporate employers put profits before workers. “The actors strike is shiny and everyone can see it, but the truth is this is a labor issue, it’s a working-class issue and it affects health care workers, teachers, custodians, drivers — it’s what we all are battling right now, for the right to make a living and put food on our plates,” she says.
ACTRA’s Noble would not comment on the implications for her own union’s upcoming contract talks with North American producers. Local Vancouver guilds and unions, including unionized actors with UBCP-ACTRA, voted in favor of a proposal from representatives of the AMPTP to extend their respective labor agreements to March 31, 2025. The move brought labor peace in Vancouver for the major studios and streamers in return for a 5 percent wage hike.
“We’re all in this fight together. We share the same issues. Across this country, [the WGA and SAG-AFTRA’s] fight is our fight, so we stand in solidarity with each other,” Noble tells THR, without addressing B.C. union members facing opposition to having given a thumbs up to the AMPTP deal extension from unions and guilds in the rest of Canada.
SAG-AFTRA’s Hurd, when asked about the actions of B.C. unions and guilds, said all Canadian union members needed to look at the big picture, rather than eke out minimal gains with every new labor deal. “What happened there is we’ll take this little bit and in a year we’ll see what happens. We cannot no longer take a little bit right now and address it later. All of us have to be incredible negotiators and make comprehensive proposals,” she adds.
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