SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris today praised the “Herculean efforts” of the union’s members, staff and elected leadership in keeping the film and TV industry “open and safe” over the past year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking at the annual membership meeting of the union’s Los Angles local, she said that the past year “is simply unlike anything we have ever seen; the isolation and the restrictions on our movements, losing loved ones. It has been challenging. However, it is through our willingness to adhere to the pandemic safety standards we are quite possibly saving a life.”
Work on refining the back-to-work protocols, which in June allowed film and TV production to resume, is ongoing, she said. “As you may imagine, this work has been occurring every day and weekend, preparing and working with the CDC, epidemiologists, our sister unions, employers and state government. As a matter of fact, today, wouldn’t you know it, we have a meeting to discuss further support and benefits for our members as we move through this period.”
Carteris also spoke about the social justice movement, and the part SAG-AFTRA has and can play in advancing it. “We have witnessed over this past year an awakening in our country. Our eyes are open to systemic injustice and we are experiencing a moment of reckoning. As a union with a very diverse membership and a deep commitment to reflecting the true American scene, we are there confronting racism, not only in our industry, but in our union, our country and every place we find it. We are committed to doing our part to achieve true systemic change and to ensure a more just and equitable society.”
In her remarks, she also outlined many of the union’s other recent efforts, including the rollout of standards for intimacy coordinators who oversee sex scenes in films and TV shows; developing a sexual harassment reporting app to identify workplace sexual abusers; organizing nonunion workers, and expanding membership education and outreach.
Meeting the challenge of new and emerging technologies is another ongoing effort, which was explored at SAG-AFTRA’s 3rd Annual Labor Innovation & Technology Summit last month. “Our Tech Summit is conducted in partnership with the AFL-CIO and focuses on how technology is impacting workers in our industry and others,” she said. “It is part think tank, part conference and part conversation with some of the top thinkers and doers in technology. We created the summit because we recognize that the future of our work will be partly shaped by the dramatic advances being made in technology. We have seen this for ourselves over the last year as viewing shifted almost overnight to streaming services. We are all now much more familiar with technologies like digital meetings and webinars – these advances are only the beginning.
“Our society will never go back to what it was before the pandemic,” she said, “and so part of our conversation at the Summit is to help shape how technology changes our lives and our workplaces. We need to be at the table with technology from the onset. Despite the strain of the pandemic and the challenges facing our industry, we have continued our successes in that area. It speaks to the fact that we’re in a time that, despite the hardships, people are still looking to the future and to the union. They want to have the representation and support that SAG-AFTRA provides, with recent victories in commercials, entertainment contracts and especially in broadcast, including organizing several new shops over the last few months.”
She ended her remarks with a quote from the Rev. Desmond Tutu: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
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