On Friday 21 July, around 400-500 people joined Brian Cox, Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Hayley Atwell, Imelda Staunton and more at Equity’s London rally in solidarity with striking SAG-AFTRA members.
Organised by Equity, the rally took place in London’s Leicester Square gardens in front of a statue of William Shakespeare, and surrounded by cinemas, street performers and statues from the world of the arts and entertainment.
Rally attendees included Equity members, actors, creatives, and members of the public, who chanted “One struggle, one fight, we support SAG-AFTRA’s strike” and “The luvvies united will never be defeated!”. They also held banners reading “Equity stands in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA”.
Rally speakers gave moving, impassioned accounts of the collective threats actors face from exploitation by streaming services and AI, the need for solidarity across borders and across struggles, and the need for reform of the draconian trade union legislation in the UK. The full list of speakers, in order, was:
- Lynda Rooke (Equity President)
- Rob Delaney (compère)
- Philippa Childs (head of BECTU)
- Rt Hon John McDonnell MP
- Sonali Bhattacharyya (Writers’ Guild of Great Britain member, playwright and screenwriter)
- Brian Cox CBE
- Rakie Ayola
- Rebecca Yeo (Equity Audio Committee)
- Eddie Dempsey (assistant general secretary of the RMT)
- Paul W Fleming (Equity General Secretary)
Other high-profile attendees were there to show their support for SAG-AFTRA included:
- Andy Serkis
- Simon Pegg
- Hayley Atwell
- Imelda Staunton CBE
- Naomie Harris OBE
- David Oyelowo
- Dame Penelope Wilton
- Jim Carter OBE
- Golda Rosheuvel
- Tobias Menzies
- Caroline Quentin
SAG-AFTRA is Equity’s sister union representing performers on screen in the United States. They are currently in negotiations with the AMPTP – the engagers association for film and TV producers in the United States. They have made the brave decision to take necessary strike action in order to achieve a good settlement in these negotiations.
Equity stands full square behind our sister union in their claim, and the action they have decided to take. Equity too is experiencing bullish engagers attempting to undermine its collectively bargained agreements. SAG-AFTRA has our total solidarity in this fight.
Speaking at the rally, Paul W Fleming, Equity General Secretary, said: “We have a very, very, very clear message for SAG-AFTRA: 110% solidarity with you in your claim, in your action, now and tomorrow. The issues SAG-AFTRA face are the same as the issues that we face. Low pay, agreements that need modernisation for the age of streaming and the rise of new technology like AI. In some areas we’re ahead, in some areas we’re behind. And I tell you what, our contracts are as strong as SAG-AFTRA’s and they will not be used to undermine or break the strike in any way at all.
"And this isn’t just hyperbole. You’re stood in the West End of London where six months ago this union claimed a 17% rise and threatened strike action. Well we got a 16.7% rise and I’ll call that a compromise I can live with. And make no mistake, that precarity and low pay has been an issue for our people since William Shakespeare’s time, but every working person should know that they are coming for you next. The precarity our members have taken for granted for centuries is creeping through the economy unrelentingly. The only movement that can stop it is the trade union movement in your workplace.”Read Equity’s full statement on the SAG-AFTRA strike and guidance for members and performers