Members of WGA walk with pickets on strike outside Culver Studios

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Here are the best signs from the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes

Hollywood has gotten creative in their signage.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 24, 2023

Much of Hollywood has come to a standstill this summer after the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike in May, and the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) followed in July. And as members of those guilds, people in many facets of the entertainment industry, and other unions in solidarity take to the picket lines, they’re utilizing the best weapon they have to get all eyeballs on them and get their point across: the signs.

Over the past few weeks and months, the guilds have made their concerns about the pitiful state of streaming residuals, mini rooms and minimum staff sizes for writers, self-taped auditions for actors, and the fear that artificial technology will put them out of a job—or require them to do even more work for little pay—clear through interviews and their online platforms; for many, it’s nearly impossible to make a living wage in Hollywood, and these strikes will determine whether people who don’t already come from money can even have a career in Hollywood.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), representing the studios, has refused to counter or entertain many of those sticking points leading up to the strikes. Many studio heads (such as Bob Iger and Ted Sarandos) have put their foot in their mouths by publicly commenting on the strikes and proposals they find unrealistic, while an anonymous executive’s quote about their hope to hold out on negotiating until writers start losing their homes and apartments incentivized people to strike even more. (The AMPTP disavowed that mindset, with a spokesperson saying that these “anonymous people are not speaking on behalf of the AMPTP or member companies.”) One studio even had trees chopped down in the middle of a heat wave, a move many interpreted as retaliation. (Because Universal didn’t get the proper permits to cut down the trees ahead of time, it’s being fined $250.)

All the while, the paydays of top executives like Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav—which reached an average of $28 million a year in 2021, according to CNBC—are regularly thrown out in conversations around the strikes to illustrate just how much more money those executives make compared to most actors and writers.

And while the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have used their social channels to spread their talking points, nothing beats the iconography of a succinct strike sign on the picket line.

The best signs of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes

Minor (albeit amusing) threats

During the first month of the WGA strike, perhaps no show demonstrated the value of great writing on TV than the final season of Succession. And while Succession might not have been a theory show or one that hinged solely on the unveiling of its big reveals, the threat of someone spoiling big plot points such as who was in charge of Waystar Royco by the end loomed large.

And the level of chaos that Yakko, Wakko, and Dot might unleash is no joke.

Riffing on pop culture to get the point across

There’s no better person to illustrate how out-of-touch the AMPTP is with reality than Lucille Bluth’s belief about how much a single banana costs.

Or pretend that the AMPTP is a Succession character who can barely relate to the little man.

In another sign, the AMPTP was represented by Ava Coleman (played by Janelle James), the completely inept principal of Abbott Elementary.

Allusions to the artificial elephant in the room

The threat of AI remains one of the biggest issues behind the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, so it’s only fitting that many of the best signs directly confront it.

Actors referencing their most iconic roles

Mandy Patinkin has been on the picket line as far back as the WGA’s early striking days, and he even pulled an Inigo Montoya along the way.

Now that SAG-AFTRA is on strike, too, we’re starting to see more actors lean into some of the roles that made them household names.

On Instagram, Sarah Silverman shared a photo of Jon Hamm holding a sign that reads, “That’s what the money is for.” It’s a direct quote from Don Draper, the character Hamm played on Mad Men, and it appears in one of the show’s most beloved episodes, season 4’s “The Suitcase.”

Having already donned a version of When Harry Met Sally’s most iconic sweater earlier this year, Billy Crystal a sign featuring a spin on the film’s most famous line, which Crystal famously came up with.

A recent Parks and Recreation reunion—that included Lil Sebastian—on the picket line also gave us images of Aubrey Plaza letting us know that Ann Perkins (April Ludgate’s nemesis on the show, who was played by Rashida Jones) would be working for the AMPTP.

Actors poking fun at themselves

Patton Oswalt is willing to be the butt of the joke during a recent day on the picket line as his daughter Alice holds a sign that reads, “PLEASE Put my dad back to work he’s annoying.”

Going miniature

In one especially creative video, comedian and writer Sara Schaefer used a video showing the creation of a miniature WGA picket line sign to detail exactly what’s at stake over 100 days into the strike.

Illustrated signs

Words can convey a lot, but you can’t beat the great artwork that can accompany it.

The AMPTP and the WGA have returned to the bargaining table, where the AMPTP presented a counteroffer 113 days into the writers’ strike. However, according to the WGA Negotiating Committee, the counteroffer (which they said the AMPTP released 20 minutes after meeting with them) was full of loopholes and didn’t adequately address their concerns. The committee accused the AMTPT of attempting to pressure the WGA to accept a lesser deal and using tactics to sow discord among the guild’s members.

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*First Published: Aug 24, 2023, 10:11 am CDT