As rehearsals for “Dancing With the Stars” are being picketed by the WGA, the other union currently on strike, SAG-AFTRA, is backing the show and its cast members.
In a statement to Variety, a spokesperson for SAG-AFTRA says that performers on the ABC competition series are not violating the strike rules by participating in the show and that they are legally required to fulfill their contractual obligations with the show.
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“Our members appearing on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ are working under the Network Code agreement, which is a non-struck contract. They are required to go to work, are not in violation of SAG-AFTRA strike rules, and we support them in fulfilling their contractual obligations,” a SAG-AFTRA spokesperson says.
“The program is a SAG-AFTRA non-dramatic production under a separate agreement that is not subject to the union’s strike order,” the statement continues. “The majority of our members on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ 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 producer exercises their option which the producer has done.”
In the statement, SAG-AFTRA explains that its members are subject to a “no strike clause,” meaning that the performers have agreed not to strike during the term of the Network Code agreement, and have agreed to show up to work during that term. (The “Network Code” was ratified in 2022, and does not expire until June 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,” the statement says.
SAG-AFTRA lends its support to the WGA and other unions in the industry, but says its members are legally obligated to work under contract: “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.”
On “Dancing With the Stars,” the two hosts, three judges and professional dancers are all members of SAG-AFTRA. Much of the celebrity lineup for Season 32 are also part of SAG-AFTRA, including Alyson Hannigan, Jamie Lynn Spears, Barry Williams, Mira Sorvino, Ariana Madix and Xochitl Gomez. “Veep” actor Matt Walsh — who announced earlier today that he was “pausing his participation” with “DWTS” — is also a SAG member, in addition to being a WGA and DGA member. All of these performers on “Dancing With the Stars” are cleared to work under SAG-AFTRA’s “Network Code” agreement, which is not part of the current strike.
Variety has reached out to a handful of “Dancing With the Stars” celebrity cast members to inquire about their participation status for the upcoming season, which currently has plans to premiere next Tuesday, Sept. 26 on ABC — though ABC confirmed earlier today that the network is monitoring the situation and is putting plans in place to postpone the premiere. (If more cast members follow Walsh in stepping back from the season, matters will be further complicated for “DWTS,” as the show relies on its celebrity cast. In other words: With no cast, there is no show.)
As alluded to in SAG-AFTRA’s statement above, technically, any celebrity cast member that might back out of “DWTS” because of the WGA strike would be in breach of contract for refusing to work because SAG-AFTRA’s Network Code no strike clause. But a source close to the show tells Variety that production is being supportive of any talent with concerns amid WGA picketing, and intends to defend their right to work on the show, given that SAG-AFTRA has informed its members that they are allowed (and obligated) to continue working under the Network Code during its ongoing strike.
This week, “Dancing With the Stars” celebrity cast members have been met by picketers in Los Angeles while rehearsing for the show. WGA members are picketing with hopes that either the show is pushed until after the strike is over, or that they can pressure cast members into backing out.
The competition reality show is the latest to face blowback from the WGA, which has been vocal on social media about the unscripted show not continuing until the strike is resolved. WGA members have said that cast members who participate in the show will be scabbing to cross the picket line to work. Daytime shows, including “Drew Barrymore,” “The Talk” and “The Jennifer Hudson Show,” all opted to delay their fall premieres this week after being targeted by the WGA.
“Dancing With the Stars” is a show covered by the WGA because it employs one WGA writer — however, it is worth noting that the show employs roughly 500 staff members in total, including crew members and producers. “Everyone’s focus is to keep 500 people employed,” a production source previously told Variety.
Other reality competition shows similar to “Dancing With the Stars,” such as Fox’s “The Masked Singers,” do not employ WGA writers, which is why they are able to remain on the air with no criticism from the WGA.
During the 2007-2008 writers strike, “DWTS” remained in production. The show re-hired its writer once the strike was over.
ABC is relying heavily on “Dancing With the Stars” for its fall schedule, which is virtually all unscripted during the strikes.
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