What Creators Need to Know About the Ongoing SAG-AFTRA Strike

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The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represents roughly 160,000 movie and television actors, joined the Writers Guild of America on the picket lines July 13 (the screenwriters walked out May 2), marking the first time since 1960 that both unions were on strike simultaneously. 

And creators are finding themselves caught in the middle, even though most are not members of either organization. 

“If you are a content creator or influencer with any aspirations to become an actor or a writer in the future, now is not the time to take a job because the rest of us are on strike,” Franchesca Ramsey, a member of both unions, told Forbes. “It will hurt your career.” 

Indeed, SAG-AFTRA has warned creators that those who promote “struck work” will be labeled as scabs and prohibited from joining the union in the future. 

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, lead negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, framed the organization’s position as recognizing the value that creators bring to the table, telling The Verge, “Content creators and influencers are very talented people. That’s why they have the followings they have—they make some of the most interesting and engaging content on those platforms. This request … is really out of respect for what they are doing and accomplishing.” 

That respect has led some media companies and studios to turn to creators as substitutes for striking talent, with Ad Age reporting that the premiere of Disney feature film Haunted Mansion earlier this month featured creators and Disney cast members walking the red carpet, instead of the film’s striking stars such as Rosario Dawson, Danny DeVito, and Owen Wilson.

“While the SAG-AFTRA eligibility requirements are developed and strategic for traditional actors and writers, the same cannot be said for creators,” Open Influence Head of Talent Relations Katie Plattner said. “We will continue to see the SAG-AFTRA rules take shape on the creator front because the industry is changing at lightning speed. For example, creator content with other people or stunts is not eligible for SAG-AFTRA contributions, but we all know that production budgets are growing on social. Until the union recognizes the scale and intricacies of creator marketing, many creators will remain non-union.”

SAG-AFTRA shared guidance for creators this week, noting that creators seeking further clarification can email Influencer@sagaftra.org

According to the union, creators should not accept any new work related to struck companies and their content, but they are free to honor existing contracts. 

SAG-AFTRA also urged creators to refrain from posting about any struck work on social media, whether organic or paid, as well as from participating in events such as appearances, meet-and-greets and panels related to struck work, mentioning industry gatherings like Comic-Con as an example. 

The union flat-out stated, “Any non-member seeking future membership in SAG-AFTRA who performs covered work or services for a struck company during the strike will not be admitted into membership in SAG-AFTRA.” 

Reaction from creators has been mixed. 

Joe Aragon, whose @cinema.joe handle on TikTok is approaching 930,000 followers, was optimistic, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “If anything, studios are probably feeling a little bit of whiplash because they thought maybe they could lean on creators during the strike, and now they’re realizing they can’t. When this ends, maybe there’ll be some sourness, but I don’t think they’ll abandon using influencers and partnering with them because this is too important. We’re too important for them.” 

But Emanuel Rodriguez, father of eight-year-old superhero content creator Logan Winter, who has partnered with companies such as DC and Marvel, told THR, “They want us to stop certain things and for us to lose money to show support, but if the roles were reversed, would they do the same? It’s like putting you in an against-a-wall thing—it’s kind of an ultimatum. No one knows the future, so you have to play it safely.” 

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