While you may not see them on the picket line, A-listers are opening up their pocketbooks to support their union during the strike. In a press release, SAG-AFTRA Foundation president Courtney B. Vance announced Wednesday that a handful of megastars including Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, and George and Amal Clooney have made at least $1 million donations to SAG-AFTRA’s Emergency Financial Assistance Program, helping the program amass over $15 million in the past three weeks.
An independent charity established in 1985, SAG-AFTRA’s Emergency Financial Assistance Program provides up to $1,500 grants to union members in need and up to $6,000 to lifetime members who have health issues or are in “serious jeopardy.” The grants are issued to help actors affected by the work stoppage with basic living expenses including as rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries, and medical expenses. Last month, Dwayne Johnson donated seven figures to the program—the largest single donation in the program’s history—when Vance put out a call to the top earners in SAG to help financially support their fellow union members.
Other A-list stars who join Johnson, Streep, DiCaprio, and the Clooneys in the million-or-more donation club include Julia Roberts, Matt and Luciana Damon, Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Oprah Winfrey. Earlier this week, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane donated $1 million to another program, the Entertainment Community Fund, as well.
In the press release, Vance thanked Johnson for helping “kick-start this campaign” and also name-checked two Oscar winners specifically—Streep and George Clooney—for their donations, their longtime support of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, their positions as leaders on the Actors Council, and their commitment to inspire others to give generously.
“I remember my days as a waiter, cleaner, typist, even my time on the unemployment line,” said Streep in the press release. “In this strike action, I am lucky to be able to support those who will struggle in a long action to sustain against Goliath. We will stand strong together against these powerful corporations who are bent on taking the humanity, the human dignity, even the human out of our profession. I am proudest of my fellow actors who have immediately offered to fund the Emergency Financial Assistance Program.”
Clooney offered a statement of support for SAG-AFTRA as well: “We stand ready to get back to the table and make a fair deal with the AMPTP. Until then, I’m proud to be able to support the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and my fellow actors who may be struggling in this historic moment. We’ve stood on the shoulders of the likes of Bette Davis and Jimmy Cagney and it’s time for our generation to give something back. I can’t thank Courtney enough for his determination in putting this effort together by shedding light on the human toll happening right now, and how we can work together to alleviate some of the pain and suffering.”
Although the SAG-AFTRA Foundation has surpassed its initial goal, Vance says they’re still actively fundraising to help union members during this difficult. “Our fundraising will continue in order to meet the overwhelming needs of our community now and in the future,” said Vance. That must be good news to rank-and-file union members—particularly on the heels of SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher declaring that they are prepared for the strike to last another six months.
Originally published in Vanityfair.com