Though the WGA and the AMPTP are reportedly back at the negotiating table, the same can’t be said about SAG-AFTRA as the strikes continue.
“We’re ready and waiting for that to happen for us. We’re so ready that even the WGA going in and continuing the negotiations, it’s a sign of hope for us so that hopefully they get their act together — not the WGA, but the AMPTP — and get back to the table,” Ezra Knight, the New York local president for SAG-AFTRA as well as a member of the negotiating committee, told TheWrap at the picket lines on Tuesday.
Linda Powell, who was striking alongside Knight at 30 Rockefeller, echoed his sentiments. Powell is also a member of the negotiating committee as well as vice president of the actors guild’s New York chapter.
“I don’t expect them to [return to the table] until maybe after they’re done with the writers,” Powell told TheWrap “I’m not sure what’s going on backchannel-wise. But I think that there’s cautious optimism that the writers are back at the table this week.”
On Saturday, Los Angeles VP and “Star Trek: Picard” star Michelle Hurd voiced her concern that the AMPTP will wait three months before returning to the negotiating table with SAG-AFTRA — the same amount of time it’s taken the studios to resume negotiations with the WGA. When asked if she agreed with Hurd that may be a possibility, Powell admitted that it’s “hard to tell” what the AMPTP’s strategy is.
“With the amount of drubbing they’re taking, popular opinion and public sentiment is with us. We’ve made our points clearly, and they’re basically just seen as the greedy side,” Powell said. “That might make them more willing to come back to the table sooner. But I don’t really understand a lot of their choices up until now, so I hope that they can come to their senses.”
On the topic of the WGA, both SAG-AFTRA leaders also expanded upon the guild’s decision to exclude writers guild-covered projects from interim agreement eligibility. SAG-AFTRA’s interim agreements allow for ongoing collaborations with producers who are not affiliated with the AMPTP “because we’re striking against them,” Knight explained. Though the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have different demands, the sister guilds have stayed together throughout the strike.
“Especially with [the WGA] going back to the table, we wanted to make sure we keep our strategies aligned. It’s a dance. And it’s going to stay fluid as long as we’re out here,” Powell said.
Knight credited the strength of New York’s ongoing pickets to the “intelligence” of SAG-AFTRA leadership and staff. But when asked why he was so passionate about his guild, Knight offered a more personal insight.
“I view the strike through a couple different prisms. One is my sensitivity to being treated as a second-class citizen. That strikes a very, very powerful chord to me,” Knight said, noting that even though pursuing the arts is often “dismissed,” “any culture that’s worth its salt” has to tell stories and “support those who do that.”
“I see it through that prism of those who’ve been denied. I see it as part of the civil rights movement. I see it as part of the labor movement in this country. Those two things have been conjoined indelibly over time,” Knight said. “Whether or not I’m the president of SAG-AFTRA local, whether or not I’m an actor, I will probably be involved in some sort of action about labor and the civil rights struggle and how that meets.”