SAG-AFTRA officially calls to strike as the National Board sanctions the organization’s walkout

Plans for the SAG-AFTRA strike are officially underway as negotiations with the AMPTP break down, affecting the entire film and TV industry.

SAG-AFTRA, strike

SAG-AFTRA is standing firm on its demand for better representation and work conditions after an official unanimous vote to strike against the film and television industry. This strike starts tonight, promptly after midnight, with picketing established at all major studios. This event marks the first time SAG-AFTRA has opted to strike since 1980.

Dealings between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers fell apart late Wednesday night with no arrangements for a new contract. Thus, the guild’s negotiating committee unequivocally recommended the board strike. According to SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher, the guild “negotiated in good faith and was eager to reach a deal that sufficiently addressed performer needs, but the AMPTP’s responses to the Union’s most important proposals have been insulting and disrespectful of our massive contributions to this industry. The companies have refused to meaningfully engage on some topics and on others completely stonewalled us. Until they do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal.”

National Executive Director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland also spoke on the matter, saying, “The studios and streamers have implemented massive unilateral changes in our industry’s business model, while at the same time insisting on keeping our contracts frozen in amber. That’s not how you treat a valued, respected partner and essential contributor. Their refusal to meaningfully engage with our key proposals and the fundamental disrespect shown to our members is what has brought us to this point. The studios and streamers have underestimated our members’ resolve, as they are about to fully discover.”

Not wanting their part in the negotiations out of the public eye, the AMPTP stated on Thursday morning: “We are deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to walk away from negotiations. This is the Union’s choice, not ours. In doing so, it has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more. Rather than continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has put us on a course that will deepen the financial hardship for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.”

Unfortunately, both sides of the table are at odds as the film and television industry enters a freeze that could take a significant amount of time to thaw. Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland are incredibly vocal about the dispute, choosing to address the guild’s members directly before today’s board meeting.

“Over the past decade, your compensation has been severely eroded by the rise of the streaming ecosystem. Furthermore, artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to creative professions, and all actors and performers deserve contract language that protects them from having their identity and talent exploited without consent and pay. Despite our team’s dedication to advocating on your behalf, the AMPTP has refused to acknowledge that enormous shifts in the industry and economy have had a detrimental impact on those who perform labor for the studios.”

The duo continues, determined to make their points known. “We’ve engaged in negotiations in good faith and remained eager to reach a deal that sufficiently addressed performer concerns, the AMPTP’s responses to our proposals have not been adequate…Our 90-year history is a testament to what can be achieved through our conviction and unity. For the future of our profession, we stand together.”

Sadly, with both parties unable to agree on a new contract, films and scripted TV shows worldwide that employ SAG-AFTRA members will shut down. For the guild to make an impact, all 160,000 members must abide by the Golden Rule: “No member shall render any services or make an agreement to perform services for any employer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the union, which is in full force and effect, in any jurisdiction in which there is a SAG-AFTRA national collective bargaining agreement in place. This provision applies worldwide.”

With guild members planning to picket outside all major studios, the crowds will be a continuous reminder that the entertainment that powers Hollywood is at a stand-still. There are countless moving pieces to this stalemate, with participants on both sides to satisfy. We could be in for a long haul, friends.

Source: Deadline

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.