President of Hollywood’s Largest Labor Union Fights for Review of Industry’s COVID Vaccine Mandate
Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA, last week said the existing Hollywood vaccine mandate “walks the razor’s edge of compromising religious, disability and body sovereignty freedoms.”
Dresher, president of SAG-AFTRA, called for the union’s national board to review the latest scientific data on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in relation to their effectiveness against new variants, before agreeing to extend the industry’s existing mandate. Hollywoods Largest Labor Union Fights Vaccine Mandate
The industry’s COVID-19 protocols “include a narrowly defined provision that allows employers to require vaccinations as a condition of employment,” according to Deadline.com.
However, these provisions are set to expire on Sept. 30.
According to its website, SAG-AFTRA, which stands for the Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, said it represents 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals.
The union’s vaccine mandate includes exemptions for “individuals who cannot be vaccinated due to disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance,” but “opponents argue that those exceptions are too rarely allowed.”
Drescher said that “with thousands of unvaccinated members still unable to work, all new information begs review and consideration before deciding our position on the next RTWA [Return to Work Agreement].”
“All I ask is we educate ourselves with the newest science and make an informed decision because members’ livelihoods hang in the balance,” she added.
In a recent article for SAG-AFTRA magazine, Drescher supported her calls for a review of the existing mandate, arguing that “in July, Dr. [Anthony] Fauci stated the current variant evades the vaccine.”
Drescher was referring to remarks Fauci made on Fox News, where he said, “vaccines, because of the high degree of transmissibility of this virus, don’t protect overly well, as it were, against infection.”
Drescher also wrote in her article “that giving employers the discretionary rights to decide which of us can or can’t work based on our medical history is a dangerous slippery slope.”
“If an employer can decide you can’t work unless [you’re] COVID vaccinated, what’s next, we can’t work without a monkeypox vaccine?” Drescher said, though she added that “when [the vaccine mandate] was added to the Return to Work Agreement (RTWA) last year, it certainly seemed like the right thing to do.”
In 2021, when she was running for president of SAG-AFTRA, Drescher went on record in support of the RTWA.
According to Deadline.com, the RTWA includes provisions for comprehensive and mandatory COVID-19 testing regimens and a “zone” system based on a perceived level of vulnerability for workers in the entertainment industry based on their proximity to individuals who are obliged to work without a mask or practicing social distancing.
This “zone” system applies to vaccine mandates within the entertainment industry, as cast and crew working in “Zone A,” alongside unmasked actors are subject to the most restrictive protocols, with producers given “the option to implement mandatory vaccination policies for casts and crew … on a production-by-production basis.”
The RTWA received continued support in April, when 86.44% of SAG-AFTRA’s national board voted to continue the protocols, which also “overwhelmingly” were favored by the union’s executive and safety committees.
While the vaccine mandate is left up to individual employers and the “zone” system, SAG-AFTRA’s national board of directors, in a 75%-25% vote in June 2021, approved a motion authorizing the union’s staff to “approve requests for mandatory vaccination policies” and established guidelines for mandates, should they ever take effect.
Opinion within SAG-AFTRA — and Drescher’s own governing faction within the union — with many continuing to support the existing mandates and policies.
This was evident at a July 23 SAG-AFTRA board meeting, held online, where, according to Deadline.com, “members of the guild’s political factions that supported [Drescher’s] election last year reportedly yelled at her … claiming that she was ‘misinformed’ about some aspects of the effectiveness of the vaccine.”
One unnamed individual who attended the meeting said, “The board blew up at [Drescher] for two hours,” adding “she took a lot of unfair, disrespectful attacks for speaking her truth.”
Another individual who attended the online meeting is said to have described “the tone of the room” as “overwhelmingly pro-vaccine, pro-protecting our members, and pro-return-to-work protocols.”
Following Drescher’s latest call for a review of the industry’s protocols, Unite for Strength, the union faction that supported Drescher’s election, issued a statement stating it “firmly supports the Return-to-Work protocols” and “strongly believe[s] in the importance of closely following the science and adjusting guidelines as supported by epidemiologists.”
MembershipFirst, the main opposing faction within SAG-AFTRA, remarked, “Good for Fran. She’s a fighter. This is not a political issue, and our position is probably no different than Unite for Strength’s.”
Drescher’s call to review “the newest science” follows recent revisions made to COVID-related requirements by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dropping quarantine and social distancing recommendations while also aligning its policies for the unvaccinated with those in place for those who are “fully” vaccinated.
Drescher is best known for her role as Fran Fine, the protagonist of the popular 1990s television sitcom, “The Nanny.”
She was elected president of SAG-AFTRA in September 2021, with the support of the union’s Unite for Strength faction, narrowly defeating Matthew Modine, whose candidacy was supported by MembershipFirst.