Disney CEO Bob Iger, whose $27 million-per-year contract was just extended through 2026, says “disruptive” actors such as Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence are “not being realistic” about the compensation benefits the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) may soon strike over.
But one person with a God-given interest in the company Iger is running — filmmaker Abigail Disney — couldn’t disagree more, calling the CEO’s business ideology “morally bankrupt.”
If the actors walk, it will be the first time since 1960 that both the writers and the thespians have gone on strike at the same time, and it’s a move that would bring nearly every U.S. film and television production to a screeching standstill.
“It’s very disturbing to me,” Iger told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday.
“There is a level of expectations that [the writers and actors] have that is just not realistic,” says $DIS CEO @RobertIger on the @sagaftra and WGA strike. “They are adding to a set of challenges that this business is already facing and that is very disruptive.” pic.twitter.com/ySYvfQBYA5
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) July 13, 2023
The CEO noted the “disruptive forces” on the industry, including the ongoing recovery from COVID, and said, “this is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption.”
“I understand any labor organization’s desire to work on behalf of its members to get the most compensation — to be compensated fairly based on the value that they deliver,” Iger continued, explaining that a “very good deal” was reached with the Director’s Guild.
While the industry would like to do “the same thing” with the writers and actors, he said, “There is a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic.”
“And they are adding to the set of challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive,” he said.
Iger stressed again that he respects the union’s drive to get as much as they can for the artists they represent.
“I’ve been around long enough to understand that dynamic and to appreciate it,” he said. “But you also have to be realistic about the business environment, what this business can deliver.”
“It is and has been a great business for all of these people, and it will continue to be, even through disruptive times,” he said, “but being realistic is imperative here.”
Striking, he warned, “will have a very, very damaging effect on the whole business, and unfortunately, there’s huge collateral damage to people who are support services. I could go on and on. It will affect the economy of different regions, even, because of the sheer size of the business.”
“It’s a shame,” Iger said. “It’s really a shame.”
In a biting Thursday tweet, filmmaker Abigail Disney called Iger “morally bankrupt.”
“You can only call your workers and partners ‘unrealistic’,” Disney wrote, “if you cannot see beyond the confines of the very narrow and morally bankrupt business ideology that has set your company on this long track toward exploitation and injustice.”
You can only call your workers and partners “unrealistic” if you cannot see beyond the confines of the very narrow and morally bankrupt business ideology that has set your company on this long track toward exploitation and injustice. #Disney #Iger #WritersStrike #SAGAFTRA https://t.co/SDtrLzflB8
— Abigail Disney (@abigaildisney) July 13, 2023
On Thursday, SAG-AFTRA President, actress Fran Drescher wrote in a letter to its members, “After more than four weeks of negotiations, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — the entity that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Bros Discovery — remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that you told us are important to you.”
A Message from the SAG-AFTRA President and Chief Negotiator: For the future of our profession, we stand together. https://t.co/FHL3jsULIa
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) July 13, 2023
“Because of this,” she announced, “we’ve called for a meeting with our National Board this morning to vote on a strike order.”
Negotiations began on June 7, Drescher explained and centered on the erosion of compensation brought on by the popularity of streaming services and the “existential threat” to “creative professions” posed by Artificial Intelligence (AI).
“As you know, over the past decade, your compensation has been severely eroded by the rise of the streaming ecosystem. Furthermore, artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to creative professions, and all actors and performers deserve contract language that protects them from having their identity and talent exploited without consent and pay,” she wrote. “Despite our team’s dedication to advocating on your behalf, the AMPTP has refused to acknowledge that enormous shifts in the industry and economy have had a detrimental impact on those who perform labor for the studios.”
Also signing onto the memo was Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s national executive director and chief negotiator.
Should the performers strike, reports the Daily Mail, A-list actors “including Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Mark Ruffalo are among those who are expected to take to the picket lines.”
And, wouldn’t you know it, none other than Abigail Disney is standing with them.
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