Behind-the-scenes drama is playing out in Hollywood, one that has pitted America’s best-known home improvement mom against the White Shadow.
Actors, extras, stunt people and other performers are once again squaring off over who should lead their union in an unusually close election that has highlighted growing anxieties over how talent is compensated in the Internet age.
The outcome that will be decided Aug. 20 could mark a change of course for Hollywood’s largest entertainment union and a return to a more contentious period in labor relations with the major studios.
Although video on demand streaming services such as Netflix have created a flood of new jobs, many actors feel they’ve been left behind by the digital revolution. The shift toward lower-cost online production has dramatically changed how actors are compensated, especially when it comes to residuals, the fees they receive when shows are rerun. New media residuals, if they exist at all, are typically a fraction of those actors received in the halcyon days of network television.
“As streaming takes off, it means the traditional means of income is making up a smaller share of the pie for these actors,” said David Smith, a labor economist at Pepperdine University. “It’s not surprising that there would be a group rising up in light of economic challenges to say, ‘Hey, we should try a different approach and dig our heels in.'”
In an election in which votes are often driven by celebrity clout, Richardson’s candidacy has breathed new life into a group that has been largely marginalized following a string of election defeats in recent years. Membership First currently holds a small minority of seats on the 70-member national board, in which 45 seats are up for grabs in the election.
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