Following the lead of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, more and more celebrities have decided to walk the talk and write big checks to help their striking union members.
Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck are among the celebrities who have recently donated $1 million or more to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Emergency Financial Assistance Fund. The President of the Foundation, actor Courtney B. Vance, announced on Wednesday.
The fund provides financial support to unemployed members of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists who have been on strike since mid-July. They joined the 11,500 film and television members of the Writers Guild of America East and West who have been on strike for exactly three months since Wednesday. (HuffPost’s unionized employees are also represented by the WGA East.)
The two historic strikes over issues such as fair pay and improved working conditions in the streaming age and protections against the use of artificial intelligence have practically paralyzed the entertainment industry. The failure of Hollywood studio executives to reach an agreement with every union has left many writers, actors and other entertainment industry workers in dire financial straits.
In a press release on Wednesday Announcing the donations, Vance said he had called on senior union members to help their SAG-AFTRA members. Johnson was the first to come forward made a seven-figure contribution last week.
Since then, more high-profile donations have come in, and according to Vance, the foundation has now raised over $15 million to help striking actors in need. The full list of celebrities who have donated $1 million or more is below.
George and Amal Clooney
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck
Luciana and Matt Damon
Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively
Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness
“The entertainment industry is in crisis and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation is currently processing more than thirty times our usual number of emergency requests. In the last week alone we received 400 applications. Our emergency financial assistance program is designed to ensure artists in need don’t lose their homes, have the ability to pay for utilities, buy groceries for their families, buy life-saving prescriptions, cover medical bills and more,” Vance said Wednesday, adding that “this work stoppage adds to the precarious living conditions and financial hardship of many actors living paycheck to paycheck.”
In the same press release, Streep said of her donation: “I remember my days as a waiter, a cleaner, a typist, even my time when I was unemployed.” In this strike action, I am fortunate to be able to support those who are in a long action have to fight Goliath. We will stand strong together against these powerful corporations out to remove humanity, human dignity and even human beings from our profession. I am most proud of my fellow actors who immediately offered to fund the Emergency Financial Assistance Program.”
The vast majority of people affected by the strikes are not big names. For example, according to SAG-AFTRA, 86% of their members are not earning enough Eligible for union health insurancewhich requires an actor or performer to earn at least $26,470 per year.
Numerous charities have sprung up to support entertainment workers who have been hit by the strike, and both unions have appealed for donations from the public. Both SAG-AFTRA and the WGA have internal strike funds to support members. There are also several funds for other types of workers, such as unemployed crew members and assistants, and funds for special needs, such as food and supplies.
Studio executives have yet to return to the negotiating table to reach an agreement with each union. But things could change: In an update to its members late Tuesday, the WGA said the chief negotiator, representing studio executives, plans to meet with the union’s chief negotiator this Friday and potentially resume negotiations.