‘M*A*S*H’ Stars Remember the 1980 SAG-AFTRA Strike

MASH (aka M*A*S*H), from bottom left: William Christopher, David Ogden Stiers, Alan Alda, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, Mike Farrell, Jamie Farr, 1972-83
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

The current SAG-AFTRA strike is still ongoing and it isn’t the first time this has happened. There have been several strikes over the years, with one being in the summer and fall of 1980. Some of the M*A*S*H stars recall the time as they were some of the most visible actors on the picket lines including Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Mike Farrell, and Jamie Farr. Although Swit had to miss out on receiving her first Emmy Award in person, she said that she doesn’t regret a thing.

Jack Klugman, Ricardo Montalbán, Loretta Swit and Ralph Bellamy standing among the picketers

R. L. Oliver, Los Angeles Times/Wikipedia/CC4.0

Swit shared, “My not being there [at the Emmys] did not take away from getting the award. It was wonderful. And I was absolutely glad that’s what we did. We used a united force against being at the show because we were walking the picket line.” Farrell shared the same sentiment about being proud to have stepped up even during a time when M*A*S*H was doing very well.

MASH (aka M*A*S*H), (l-r): Mike Farrell, Larry Linville, Jamie Farr (bottom), Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Harry Morgan, William Christopher, 1972-83

20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

He said, “We were asked to go to different places and stand up for the union. We did a lot of talking to the press. It was the right thing to do. I was very lucky in my career and I had the good luck to get ‘MASH’ which was a once in a lifetime experience. I felt grateful to the business for the opportunity that had been presented to me. So I wanted to stand up for the people who were coming up behind me. That’s just the nature of what one does in this business.”

MASH, (aka M*A*S*H), from left: Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit, Jamie Farr, Gary Burghoff, William Christopher, Alan Alda, David Ogden Stiers, Harry Morgan, 1972-83

20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

People gathered to strike at different studios for days at a time. Swit recalls the hot days of standing outside and a special day when 500 kids in costumes took place in a “kiddie picket.” They sang Disney songs in front of Disney’s gates on August 21. By mid-September, both sides came to an agreement. The unions received pay increases and profit sharing from home media releases. It was a lower share than they hoped for but it ultimately ended the strike.

Pasadena, CA - 1982: (L-R) Loretta Swit, Alan Alda appearing at the 34th Primetime Emmy Awards, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Pasadena, CA, September 19, 1982

George Long/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

A few years later, Swit was able to receive an Emmy in person when she won for a second time. The show continued and broke records, especially with the beloved finale. Swit added that the cast of M*A*S*H truly became a family, whether they were striking or working together. She concluded, “It was our last Emmy show. Instead of going in those long limos that the networks would send, we hired an old bus so we could all go together. I’ll never forget pulling up in this bus and all of us getting off with our bling and our black tie. We just wanted to be together. ‘MASH’ was and still is a very special group of people.”

 Oh What A Year: 1980
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Oh What A Year: 1980

January 2020

Take a look back at our retrospect of the year 1980 where we celebrate the hottest in movies, music and TV.

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