Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) members overwhelmingly approved a strike authorization vote before the union begins negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), with 97.91 percent of members who participated by voting “yes” in the poll.
The guild also announced that nearly 65,000 members voted, or 47.69% of the more than 160,000 guild members who could submit ballots. Only 75 percent of “yes” votes were needed to grant the guild leaders the power to call a strike if necessary.
That doesn’t mean the actors are definitely going on strike, just that they’re willing to go on picket lines if a fair deal isn’t reached with the studios.
The SAG took the surprising step of authorizing a strike even before negotiations with the AMPTP began on June 7, and both the SAG negotiating committee and the national council unanimously endorsed the authorization vote in May. Gives the guild additional leverage once talks begin this week.
SAG’s contract with the studios expires June 30, and the WGA has been on strike since May 1. While the conventional wisdom is that financial gains and the language surrounding AI could serve as role models for other guilds in their speeches, both SAG and the WGA have been clear that they will not allow the DGA deal to affect their own negotiating agenda.
“Votes to authorize the strike were tabulated and members joined their elected leadership and negotiating committee for strength and solidarity. I am proud of all of you who voted as well as those who vocally supported, even if unable to vote. Everyone played a part in this achievement,” said Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA. “Together we squeeze elbows and unitedly build a new contract that honors our contributions to this amazing industry, reflects the new streaming and digital business model, and brings ALL of our concerns about protections and benefits into the present! Bravo SAG-AFTRA, we are in it to win it”.
“I couldn’t be happier with this response from members. This overwhelming yes vote is a clear affirmation that it is time for an evolution in this contract. As we enter what could be one of the most important negotiations in union history, inflation, dwindling residuals from streaming, and generative AI all threaten the actors’ ability to make a living if our contracts don’t come through. adapted to reflect the new realities. This strike authorization means we enter our negotiations from a position of strength, so we can deliver the deal our members want and deserve,” said SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland .
The AMPTP said in a press statement that “We are approaching these negotiations with the goal of reaching a new agreement that is beneficial to SAG-AFTRA members and the industry at large.”
If the actors join the writers strike, virtually all production would come to a halt in Hollywood, leading to further delays in the TV season and likely delays in the release of future feature films. As IndieWire recently reported, uncertainty about what the actors might do prompted insurance providers to issue completion guarantees, an essential step for independent films to secure financing.
Like the writers, some of the key issues in negotiations with the studios include improving outstanding payouts and addressing concerns about the use of AI. But the guild is also concerned with higher compensation and an improvement in the guild’s health plan, and the guild also wants to establish guidelines on “self-tapes,” or self-recorded hearings that the guild says are “unregulated and out of control” and impose a costly burden on actors in the audition process.
The Screen Actors Guild last went on strike in 2018 for 10 months against advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty and in 2016 for 11 months, the longest in the guild’s history, against major video game companies. When both SAG and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) were separate unions in 2000, the two joined forces and struck over a new commercial deal for six months.