Hundreds of film workers and union members around New England gathered on Boston Common Wednesday afternoon to rally in support of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike.
They brought picket signs, painted banners, matching T-shirts, megaphones, and instruments, and they chanted until they lost their voices.
“Hey hey, ho ho, corporate greed has got to go,” they shouted in unison. “Hey hey, hi hi, we are actors not AI.”
Artificial intelligence is a key issue for both SAG-AFTRA and the Writer’s Guild of America, whose strike entered its 100th day on Wednesday.
“The Writers Guild of America has been on the picket 100 days. … One hundred days of fighting against AI, artificial intelligence stealing our work,” Massachusetts AFL–CIO President Steven Tolman told the crowd. “One hundred days of standing up for responsible implementation technology. One hundred days of standing, sisters and brothers, for what is right.”
The rally was the second held on Boston Common since SAG-AFTRA (The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) announced its strike on July 13.
The union represents 160,000 entertainment professionals across the country, from voiceover artists to puppeteers to DJs. The New England Local chapter has about 4,000 members, 65 percent of which live in Massachusetts.
“We just wanna get paid,” said Gilda James, a local actress and SAG-AFTRA board member.
Local union members Liz Eng and Rafael Silva emceed the late afternoon gathering held at the Parkman Bandstand. Tom Bergeron, the Haverhill native and longtime former host of “Dancing With the Stars,” and US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, also spoke in solidarity with the striking workers.
Bergeron, the Emmy Award-winning television host, showed the crowd a residual check he received in the mail that totaled one cent.
“Streaming services turned the business upside down,” said Bergeron, who did not say where the check was from, per strike rules. ”We are at a crucial crossroads right now.”
During her speech, Warren came down on “greedy, greedy network executives.” The crowd booed after she mentioned Bob Iger, chief executive of Disney.
When SAG-AFTRA announced its strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, it joined the already striking Writers Guild of America.
It’s the first time in 60 years that actors and writers are striking simultaneously. And nearly all TV and movie productions and related promos have halted production.
“We’re fighting for our rights,” said Ellen Colton, New England Local secretary. “We’re out here all together because some people in this industry get a lot of money and we don’t see enough of it.”
The union is asking the AMPTP, which bargains on behalf of the studios, for higher wages, better working conditions, streaming revenue sharing, and protections against AI.
The union has also asked for qualified hair and makeup professionals that can work with a variety of hair textures and skin tones, sustainable health and retirement funds, and better treatment of background actors and stunt coordinators.
“From giant streaming platforms to Hollywood conglomerates, these companies need you,” Warren said. “You the actors, the writers, the directors, the animators, the musicians, the stylists, the sound technicians, and many, many more. You are the heart and soul of the entertainment industry. You are the reason we go to the movies. You are the reason we turn on Netflix and HBO and Disney+. You are the entertainment industry.”
After leading the crowd in chants, Warren left them with a final thought:
“We’re not in this fight just to make a little noise,” she said. “We are in this fight to win.”