During a fiery press conference announcing the first Screen Actors Guild strike in more than four decades, union president Fran Drescher defended her controversial trip to Italy during the final days of contract negotiation. “It was absolute work,” said Drescher, who is a brand ambassador for Dolce & Gabbana and had attended the fashion house’s Alta Moda event in Puglia, Italy, last weekend. Drescher faced a question about a photo — “That wasn’t a selfie,” she quickly clarified — with Kim Kardashian at a party for the event, which Kardashian later posted to her Instagram Story. It immediately led to criticism of Drescher’s leadership. “I had only met Kim seconds before that publicity picture was taken; it had nothing to do with being at a party or having fun,” Drescher said. “It was absolute work. I was in hair and makeup three hours a day, walking in heels on cobblestones, doing things like that, which is work, not fun.” As Drescher spoke of logging onto negotiating sessions in her hotel room after events, the negotiating committee behind her nodded and snapped in support. “We work,” Drescher said. “That’s what we do.”
SAG-AFTRA previously made a statement explaining Drescher’s trip, saying “she has been in negotiations every day either in person or via video conference.” But the trip led to some criticism from members, like Arrow’s Kirk Acevedo, who tweeted, “The optics look fucking terrible.” Striking Writers Guild members also criticized Drescher for the photo, after Kardashian crossed a WGA picket line to film a new season of American Horror Story, in which she’s starring. And Maya Dunbar, who’s running against Drescher for president on a platform of ending set vaccine mandates, told Deadline the photo was “a clear example of how out of touch the president is with the majority of the rank-and file-membership.” The photo and Italy trip came after a letter to union leadership signed by more than 1,000 actors voicing their readiness to strike. The letter had been interpreted as a response to a negotiations update from Drescher, but Drescher then signed the letter. “I don’t think she is the best person to lead us right now,” one SAG member told Rolling Stone in a report following the letter and photo.
Announcing the strike, though, the union presented a united front behind Drescher. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s national executive director and chief negotiator, blamed criticism of Drescher on the studios. “For these employers to cynically try to turn our members against Fran because she’s doing a job that she was under contract to do … it is outrageous, it is wrong, it’s despicable, and they should be ashamed of it,” Crabtree-Ireland said during the press conference. And Drescher went on to emphatically accept the support of the negotiating committee: “I think that all of the people standing behind me stand behind me.”