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The president of Hollywood’s largest union is celebrating Disney ending vaccine mandates on several U.S.-based TV shows.
“@Disney pulls the plug on vaccine mandates! Way to go Mickey!!!” the leader of performers’ union SAG-AFTRA and former The Nanny star Fran Drescher tweeted on Saturday. In an attached video, Drescher voiced her opposition to these mandates. “To think that every human on the planet can take one vaccine is ludicrous,” she said. “And to make that one vaccine the criteria for who is allowed to work, travel, dine, go to theater, et cetera, is an infringement on the Disabilities Act, the freedom of religion act and body sovereignty.”
Disney recently dropped vaccine mandates on 12 TV productions on which it is the lead studio, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed on Monday. The productions were notified last week that vaccines were no longer required on “Zone A” of the production. Deadline, which was the first to report the news on Saturday, noted that ABC’s The Rookie and The Rookie: Feds still require vaccines for Zone A, and Disney is not the lead studio on those productions.
The industry’s return-to-work agreement, which regulates union productions during the COVID-19 pandemic, allows producers to mandate vaccines in “Zone A” of their sets if they wish. That provision has not been altered since vaccines were incorporated into the joint studio-union pact in July 2021. SAG-AFTRA is one of the several top industry unions that every few months revisit the agreement to determine if it should be renewed and if changes should be made; the agreement was last renewed on Oct. 26.
In her video message, Drescher said, “We as a nation must be very careful that fear does not turn into fascism.” She continued, “When equal citizens stop being equal, when cards must be presented to identify whether you are included or excluded, we stand at a tipping point of an America I no longer recognize.” Drescher noted that she herself is vaccinated but still supports Disney dropping vaccine mandates.
Drescher ended by suggesting that vaccine mandates amounted to discrimination, saying, “The problem with discrimination is that there will always be good people that justify it because of an extreme condition. But it is those times especially when we must fight even harder to protect the sanctity of freedom for all and never succumb to an us-versus-them mentality.” She closed the video by saying, “Above all else, freedom,” and flashing a peace sign.
A vocal contingent of Drescher’s union, SAG-AFTRA, has become increasingly outspoken in their resistance to vaccine mandates on set, calling it discrimination. Some of this group staged a protest outside the union’s Wilshire Boulevard headquarters in April, while others signed an Action Network letter campaign. In September, the union’s national board convened to discuss production vaccine mandates but decided not to attempt to make any changes. “The board concluded its meeting without taking any action to modify the existing policy supporting the employer’s ability to implement such mandates subject to the protective provisions contained in the return to work agreement,” the union said in a statement at the time.
Drescher herself previously called employer vaccine mandates into question in a letter in SAG-AFTRA Magazine. In the summer 2022 issue, she wrote about her concern that “giving our employers the discretionary rights to decide which of us can or can’t work based on our medical history is a dangerous slippery slope.” She added, “If an employer can decide you can’t work unless COVID vaccinated, what’s next, we can’t work without a monkeypox vaccine?”
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