Actors represented by Hollywood union Sag-Aftra have voted overwhelmingly to strike if they do not agree on a new contract with major studios, streamers and production companies by June 30.
On Monday, 65,000 members of the guild, which represents more than 160,000 film actors, broadcast journalists, announcers, hosts and stunt performers, voted, with 98% backing a strike if negotiations with the Alliance of Film and Television Producers television (AMPTP) fail.
After the vote, Sag-Aftra President Fran Drescher told union members she was proud of you all.
Together we stand together and in unity we build a new contract that honors our contributions to this remarkable industry, reflects the new digital and streaming business model, and brings ALL of our concerns for protections and benefits into the present ! she wrote. Bravo Sag-Aftra, we are here to earn it.
Talks between Sag-Aftra and AMPTP begin Wednesday, a month after the Writers Guild of America (WGA) began striking over its own dispute with AMPTP, which represents more than 350 studios, television networks and Hollywood streaming companies.
On Saturday, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) reached a tentative, separate agreement with studios on issues including salaries, streaming residuals and artificial intelligence.
If Sag-Aftra eventually went ahead with the strike, it would be limited to TV and film productions; news and broadcast work would not be directly affected.
At stake is an increase in base pay, which players say has been undermined by inflation and the streaming ecosystem, the threat of unregulated use of artificial intelligence, benefits and the burden of self-recorded auditions the cost of which was previously the responsibility of casting and manufacturing.
The strike vote, a tool at the bargaining table, comes at a pivotal time for the industry as 11,500 writers enter their sixth week on strike. If the actors joined the screenwriters in the strike, the industry would almost come to a standstill, from production to promoting completed projects.
The WGA, DGA and Sag-Aftra have stood in solidarity since the writers began walking the picket lines on May 2. Many in Hollywood were concerned about the real possibility of all three guilds striking at the same time, as the directors’ and actors’ contracts were soon to expire as well.
That scenario changed late Saturday when the DGA, which represents 19,000 film, television and commercial directors, announced it had reached a truly historic tentative agreement with the studios. The terms, which were not disclosed in detail to the press or other guilds, will be presented to the DGA board for approval on Tuesday and then to the membership for ratification.
Representatives of the WGA and Sag-Aftra praised the group of directors for reaching a provisional agreement, although neither commented on specific points of the DGA’s terms. The WGA also said its negotiating positions remain the same.
The DGA deal did not sit well with some individual WGA members, some of whom remembered when the directors negotiated their own contracts while the writers went on strike in 2007-08. That 15-year-old deal, some say, set a precedent that forced writers to abide by DGA-agreed terms and end the strike.
Zero surprises, tweeted TV and film writer Steven DeKnight. The AMPTP continues to use its tired old playbook. And the DGA unfortunately continues to toe the line, knowing that it can build on the WGA’s resolve to strike a truly historic deal. Disappointing, but not surprising.
Seemingly anticipating a repeat, the WGA’s negotiating committee issued a letter last week warning that the studios would again pursue a divide-and-conquer strategy, pitting guilds against each other.
Our position is clear: to resolve the strike, companies will need to negotiate with the WGA on our comprehensive agenda, the letter says. We will keep walking until the companies negotiate fairly with us.
While the unions appeared more united this time around, their goals are also different in many areas. For the directors, securing the international streaming residuals that drive subscriber growth was key, as were salaries, safety like banning live ammunition on set diversity and inclusion and adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
The WGA program includes increased wages, better residuals and minimum personnel requirements.
AI is one of the main areas of overlap between the three guilds: the DGA said it had reached a groundbreaking agreement confirming that AI is not a person and that generative AI cannot replace the tasks carried out by the members.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, Sag-Aftra’s chief negotiator, maintains that the needs of actor guild members are unique. Hollywood actors have not gone on strike against the AMPTP since 1980, during a 95-day strike over pay-TV and VHS tape conditions.
Our bargaining strategy has never relied on or been dependent on the outcome or status of other union negotiations, nor do we subscribe to the philosophy that the terms of agreements reached with other unions bind, said Crabtree-Ireland.
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