Here’s Why Actors Can Do ‘SNL’ During the Strike
After all of the grief Drew Barrymore took for announcing a return to her talk show without writers, it came as somewhat of a surprise that Saturday Night Live was so quick to jump back into live shows. After all, comics like Kenan Thompson and Chloe Fineman are members of SAG-AFTRA — so wouldn’t they be averse to crossing a picket line? And who would the show get to host? If union members are off the table, they could return to musicians like Meghan Thee Stallion or athletes like Travis Kelce. But those appearances work better as palate cleansers than as a steady diet of non-professional funny people. Why is it that Saturday Night Live believes it can do a show and get away with it?
I must not be the only one with the question because SAG-AFTRA has come out with an official explanation. Take it away, union friends:
SAG-AFTRA members appearing on Saturday Night Live either as hosts, guests, or cast members are working under the Network Code agreement, which is not a contract we are striking. They are not in violation of SAG-AFTRA strike rules, and we support them in fulfilling their contractual obligations.
The program is a SAG-AFTRA non-dramatic production under a separate agreement that is not subject to the union’s strike order.
The majority of our members who are regular cast on Saturday Night Live had contractual obligations to the show prior to the strike. Many are under option agreements that require them to return to the show if the producers exercise their option which the producers have done.
Our members are also subject to a “No Strike Clause” in the Network Code Collective Bargaining Agreement. This means our performers agree not to strike during the term of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and to show up to work during this term (the Network Code runs through June 30, 2024). By not showing up to work, our performers can be held in breach of contract and the Union is prohibited from advising them not to work.
It is important to recognize that SAG-AFTRA is fighting against the studios and not members who are required to go to work every day under other union contracts or personal service agreements. We stand with our union siblings across the industry as we also recognize our obligations under federal labor law.
Bottom line: Saturday Night Live cast members can do the show and by contract, they must. Alrighty then.
But we confess that we don’t understand why Saturday Night Live lives in its own special category. Does that mean other sketch shows like I Think You Should Leave also qualify? Or is it SNL’s live performance that classifies it as a different kind of production? When Pete Davidson hosts next Saturday, can he do the normal host thing and ask people to watch Bupkis on Peacock? Or would he be considered some kind of talk show guest, free to appear as long as he doesn’t talk about current productions?
Let’s hope the actors get what they want soon and we don’t have to discuss any of this again for a very long time.