By David Robb
A strong majority of SAG-AFTRA members responding to a guild survey say they approve of Hollywood’s Covid vaccination mandate. Over two-thirds (67.1%) of members surveyed said that they “approve of employers requiring Covid vaccination as a condition of access to the set,” with 26.1% saying they disapprove, and 6.8% expressing no opinion.
According to the guild, 7,696 members returned valid responses, representing just over 5% of the guild’s eligible members.
A second, more vaguely worded question also shows support for the mandate. It asked: “If there are extenuating circumstances that mean a production will not go forward in the absence of an employer vaccine mandate, do you support the employer being able to implement such a mandate?” According to a guild source, that was approved 56.6% to 28.5%, with 14.9% offering no opinion.
The results of the survey were released at today’s national board meeting. On Friday, Hollywood’s unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers agreed to extend the Covid protocols, which contain the mandate, until April 1.
SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher had called for the survey. Drescher, who says that she herself has been vaccinated herself, is a leading opponent of the mandate. “I continue to fight on behalf of our members who feel discriminated against because of the Covid unvaccinated or un-boosted status, which is keeping them from working in major studio productions,” she wrote in the latest issue of SAG-AFTRA Magazine. “For those members not being fairly considered by studios with regards to their religious or health exemptions, help is on the way!
“As a result of this lingering policy, many performers have lost their representation, their medical benefits and their livelihoods. As a result of this lingering policy, many performers have lost their representation, their medical benefits and their livelihoods.”
Urging members to take part in the survey, she wrote: “We want to take the pulse of the entire member body on this issue and many more, so watch for the national SAG-AFTRA survey, and answer all the questions to help our National Board best represent you,” she wrote.
First adopted on September 21, 2020, the Covid protocols enabled jobs and productions to rebound after an industrywide lockdown early on in the pandemic. The protocols have been extended numerous times since then, and in July 2021 were amended to give producers “the option to implement mandatory vaccination policies for casts and crew in Zone A on a production-by-production basis.” Zone A, where unmasked actors work, is the most restrictive of the safe work zones on sets.
The mandate is “subject to reasonable accommodations as required by law for individuals who cannot be vaccinated due to disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.” But many vaccination-mandate opponents say that those exceptions are too rarely allowed.
During Saturday’s board meeting, National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree noted that SAG-AFTRA offices nationwide will be reopening on Monday. “The union’s offices will return to normal operating hours and the masking and mandatory vaccination policy will remain in place for the safety of staff and other members,” the guild said.
Crabtree-Ireland also reiterated the guild’s previously reported statement regarding possible criminal charges against Alec Baldwin in connection with the accidental shooting death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust, saying that “an actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert.”
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