Philly unions rally to show solidarity for actors, writers, and others striking against the studios

The City Hall rally was part of a nationwide effort to garner support for the work stoppage.

SAG-AFTRA rally at city hall

SAG-AFTRA rally at Philadelphia City Hall on August 22, 2023. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Members of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Writers Guild of America came to City Hall Tuesday afternoon to show that they are not giving up their fight against big studios and production houses.

SAG-AFTRA member Lou Pacheco used his talent as an opera singer to sing in Italian a selection from the opera Turandot in Italian to demonstrate that the unions aren’t giving up. “We shall be victorious,” Pacheco said as he finished the song.

SAG-AFTRA rally at city hall
Lou Pacheco sings a line from the opera ‘Turandot’ after his speech. (Vicky Diaz-Camacho/WHYY)

“We’re not asking for much, we’re asking for what’s fair,” said actor and SAG-AFTRA member J.S. Williamson. He said workers need to take a stand for better wages and benefits this time around, especially for streaming services.

Williamson and others spoke of how background artists are underpaid and can’t reach the union threshold for health benefits. The workers are concerned that they will lose their jobs completely if their images are used and manipulated by computers via artificial intelligence.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The use of AI has also been a contentious issue for members of the Writers Guild of America, who have been out on strike longer than SAG-AFTRA. “If we don’t stem the tide of AI and corporate greed everyone, everything we hold dear will be washed away,” said WGA’s Shu Zang.

National president of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Workers Lee Saunders joined workers at the Philly rally, urging those on strike to stay strong.

“The 1.4 million members of AFSCME across this country stand with you every single day until you have victory at hand, and you will have victory.”

SAG-AFTRA rally at city hall
AFSCME President Lee Saunders speaking at the rally. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Other local members of trade unions, including the stagehands attended the rally in a show of solidarity.

Mayor Jim Kenney made his second appearance at a union event in as many days to show his support. Kenney said he wants to see a fair end to the walkout so there will be some “quality television” to watch. The mayor said since the strike began, there has been nothing good on television.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal