Labor Militancy on the Rise: SAG-AFTRA Strikes!

SAG-AFTRA members and supporters rallied at the IATSE 479 Hall on Monday.

Last Friday, July 14, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) launched a strike, representing over 150,000 workers. This is the first time that SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have been on strike at the same time since 1960. Both of these unions are up against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

The AMPTP is an alliance of major studio capitalists, including the “Big Five” –  Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures (Sony), and Paramount Pictures – which currently dominate over 80% of the media market. The “Big Five” have a significant presence in Atlanta, a city that has seen its film industry rapidly grow into a multi-billion dollar sector in recent years, employing over ten thousand workers.

On Monday, SAG-AFTRA held a kickoff rally at the local IATSE 479 Hall in Atlanta to mark the launch of the nationwide strike. Hundreds of members and supporters gathered to hear from speakers regarding the upcoming fight and the unions’ demands, including increased pay, stable employment, and measures to address the increasing use of AI to replace human labor.

Just as with WGA, the era of streaming and inflation has caused a considerable financial hit for actors, and a significant decrease in compensation. Additionally, workers are asking for more reasonable timelines to avoid long periods of unemployment between filming. Media bosses benefit from keeping employees captive and precarious between shoots, as a way to protect their bottom line and maximizing profits.

Finally, as if in a dystopian science-fiction, some major companies are attempting to claim actors’ “likeness” as property for their own profit. Using advanced AI tools, producers can scan an actor’s image and incorporate it digitally into any media production. Studios can even edit actors’ dialogue or appearance in movies without the actor even showing up for production. SAG-AFTRA is pushing back on these developments, demanding protections for workers, informed consent, and more adequate compensation for the use of their likeness. 

The wealthy investors that the AMPTP represents are a powerful force which shapes public opinion, and political and social movements through its control of media production. But with both WGA and SAG-AFTRA on strike, the absence of new media is bound to expose who’s actually doing the work to create the film and television content which makes these studios so profitable. The recently announced SAG-AFTRA strike not only coincides with the WGA contract fight, but also falls just two weeks before the UPS Teamsters plan to launch the largest private-sector strike the country has seen in decades. With worker militancy on the rise, it’s clear that workers from logistics to the film industry are growing increasingly conscious of their position in society and ability to win transformative change through collective action. 

This historic moment demands not only cross-union solidarity, but backing from the entire working class, and DSA is ready to support workers every step of the way! While most SAG-AFTRA pickets are currently concentrated in LA and New York, keep your eyes peeled for updates on Metro-Atlanta pickets and actions at and get involved in DSA to join our labor solidarity work.

Photos by Brandon Mishawn