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How the Current Screen Actors Guild Strike Measures Up to the Strike of 1960

Ryan McLachlan
Photo Credit: Ronald Reagan Library / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain, Mario Tama / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Ronald Reagan Library / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain, Mario Tama / Getty Images

On July 14, 2023, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG – AFTRA) went on strike, which coincided with strike action by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) as part of the ongoing labor dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

This strike has led to many comparing it to the 1960 SAG strike, which Ronald Reagan famously spearheaded. This is what happened during the 1960 strike and some similarities the current strikes shares with it.

1960 SAG strike

The 1960 SAG strike was a significant labor dispute that affected the entertainment industry in Hollywood. The strike was a response to several issues and disagreements between actors and producers over contract negotiations and the future of the entertainment industry.

During the strike, the main point of contention between the actors and the AMPTP was the demand for residual payments. Residuals are additional compensation paid to actors for reruns and re-airings of television shows and films. The actors were seeking a fair share of the profits generated from their work in the rapidly growing television industry.

Academy Award winner Charlton Heston (R) shakes hands with Charles S. Boren, vice president of the Association of Motion Picture Producers as the Screen Actors Guild ended its strike against 7 major picture studios. Shown next to Heston is SAG President Ronald Reagan who shakes hands with B.B. Kahne of the AMMP. The strike began on March 7 and halted production on 8 feature films. (Original Caption)
Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston with Charles S. Boren, vice president of the Association of Motion Picture Producers, and B.B. Kahne of the AMMP, April 8, 1960. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

The strike had significant ramifications for the industry, leading to numerous TV shows being suspended, production delays in films, and financial losses for both actors and producers. As tensions escalated, Reagan had to balance the interests of his fellow actors while seeking a resolution that would be acceptable to both parties.

Eventually, after months of intense negotiations and pressure, a settlement was reached and the strike came to an end. The actors achieved some gains, including a compromise on residual payments, but it fell short of the complete victory they had hoped for.

Ronald Reagan played a prominent role as the President of the Screen Actors Guild at the time. He firmly supported the actors’ demands, believing that it was essential to secure their financial interests and protect their livelihoods in the face of the changing dynamics of the entertainment business.

Reagan’s role during the 1960 SAG strike catapulted him further into the public eye. It also provided him with valuable experience in dealing with labor disputes and negotiations, which would later prove useful after he became the 40th President of the United States.

How today’s strike compares to the 1960 strike

Despite only starting over a week ago at the time of writing, comparisons can be made between the current strike and the strike of 1960. The reason for the strike is the same: actors and writers want to be properly compensated for the work they do. The difference is in motivation, which has much to do with modern technologies.

SAG-AFTRA and WGA members walk the picket line outside Sony Pictures, on July 13, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
SAG-AFTRA and WGA members walk the picket line outside Sony Pictures, on July 13, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)

As stated by Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator, studios have suggested the following: “Background performers should be able to be scanned and get paid for one day’s pay, and their companies should own that scanned image, their likeness to be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want with no consent and no compensation.” Ultimately, actors want to protect their likeness and ensure proper payment for its use.

Another similarity, which may prove to be true, is the result of the strike hinging on SAG’s leadership. If the strike is to be concluded successfully, Fran Drescher, the current SAG president, is going to have to follow in Reagan’s footsteps. This also means that she’ll be under heavy scrutiny, which she has already faced after a trip to Italy with Kim Kardashian.

More from us: What Happened To Critically Acclaimed Actress Catherine Burns?

We’ll just have to wait and see how the current strike is concluded and whether or not it changes the filmmaking industry for generations to come like the 1960 strike did.

Ryan McLachlan

Ryan McLachlan is a historian and content writer for Hive Media. He received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Classical Studies and his Master of Arts in History from the University of Western Ontario. Ryan’s research focused on military history, and he is particularly interested in the conflicts fought by the United Kingdom from the Napoleonic Wars to the Falklands War.

Ryan’s other historical interests include naval and maritime history, the history of aviation, the British Empire, and the British Monarchy. He is also interested in the lives of Sir Winston Churchill and Admiral Lord Nelson. Ryan enjoys teaching, reading, writing, and sharing history with anyone who will listen.

In his spare time, he enjoys watching period dramas such as Murdoch Mysteries and Ripper Street and also enjoys reading classical literature and Shakespeare. He also plays football and is an afternoon tea connoisseur.