SAG-AFTRA Strike Rally Takes Over Times Square: ‘We Are Laborers!’

SAG-AFTRA Times Square Rally (Credit: Twitter/@sagaftra)

Chanting “SAG-AFTRA strong,” striking actors filled Times Square on Tuesday morning to demand change and a fair contract.

Billed as “Rock the City for a Fair Contract,” the rally drew a massive crowd, including union leaders, celebrities and supporters.

“When we fight, we win!” Wendell Pierce said from the podium.

The Wire and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan actor reflected on growing up in Louisiana and said freed slaves in his home state also fought for their rights.

“I always support the unions, because there’s history here. There’s blood in the fields,” Pierce said. “Sugarcane workers toiled in the fields a generation ago, newly freed, making a dollar a day. They could not own the land they worked on. They organized and they came together in solidarity.”

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Also attending the rally were Jessica Chastain, Brendan Fraser, Vanessa Williams, Rachel Zegler, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jane Curtin, Melissa Joan Hart, S. Epatha Merkerson, Ellen Burstyn, Christine Baranski, Corey Stoll, Christian Slater, Hill Harper, Steve Buscemi, and more stars.

Buscemi noted that the Writers Guild of America is also on strike and called on studios and streamers to give the WGA and SAG-AFTRA fair contracts.

“Writers gotta write. Actors gotta act and the AMPTP has got to do right by us,” Buscemi said, referring to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which is representing the studios and streamers in contract talks with the two unions.

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Breaking Bad alum Bryan Cranston also addressed the crowd. He said the entertainment industry has changed and SAG-AFTRA wants a new labor agreement to reflect those changes.

“They want us to step back in time. We cannot and we will not do that. What we have put forth in negotiations is not unreasonable,” Cranston said.

Members of the WGA, teamsters and SEIU also attended the rally.

SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee member Michelle Hurd fired up the crowd from the podium. The actress is a native New Yorker and said she was proud of the massive turnout.

“Seeing you all here, New York showed up!” she said.

Hurd — who’s had roles on Blindspot, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Star Trek: Picard — reminded the crowd that while she’s been on hit TV shows, she’s not rich.

“If you see me on those many different shows, it’s because I am hustling,” Hurd said. “I am hustling to pay my bills, to put food on my table. I’m not living no lavish life! This is a working union here. We are laborers!”

Actors began walking picket lines in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and other cities on Friday, July 14.

Among the issues on the table are profit sharing or residuals, when streaming platforms re-play TV shows and movies, plus new rules to protect against artificial intelligence using an actor’s likeness and replacing their work.

The AMPTP has said it offered a “historic” contract, which was rejected by the union.

“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.”

Watch coverage of Tuesday’s rally below from Now This.