You may now have just been hearing about the SAG strike. You might not know that it's been going on for more than twenty weeks. You might not know all of the particulars -- the causes, the struggles -- and you might not know why this affects you. You might not know who the strike affects, or how it's changed the way actors work and get paid. This is because the media is run by the advertisers involved in the strike, and they've been working very hard to make sure you didn't know what was happening.
When an actor works on a commercial for network television, he or she is paid in something called "residuals." This is an amount paid to the actor every time this commercial is aired. The actor signs a contract with a "pay per view" amount. This is an important part of the commercial actor's paycheck, since the more popular a commercial is, the harder it is for that actor to be hired again for a different commercial. Actors also often sign contracts saying that they won't work for a company that is in competition with the company that hired him or her. Without residuals, working on a commercial as popular as "Whassup?" might mean the end of your commercial career. That's why sometimes you'll see an actor in a string of commercials for about three months, and then you'll say "Man, I see that guy everywhere!" and then he's gone. In cable, there are no residuals, which is why you see so many commercials repeated ad nauseam . They can run them as often as they like, without any payment to the actor. The actor isn't really costing the advertisers too much anyway, since the actor's salary is less than one percent of the budget for your average commercial.
There are also very few laws concerning payment on internet advertising. With the internet quickly becoming the new medium for information and entertainment, it's easy to see why SAG wants their actors to be protected now, before the ad execs have created their own rules. The internet could become a world of non-union work, where actors are compensated miserably for their work, with poor working conditions and terrible hours. SAG's initial proposal included residuals for cable and internet advertising. The ad companies not only refused to negotiate, they countered by saying they would like to remove residual payment entirely, giving actors a flat fee for commercial work. This would cut an actor's salary for a commercial by at least fifty percent, an unacceptable amount considering that 80% of the working actors in SAG receive less than $5000 a year.