Actors union SAG-AFTRA is on strike

The Hollywood sign
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Actors union SAG-AFTRA has voted unanimously to take strike action, making it the first simultaneous strike with the WGA in over six decades.

This is a historic week. According to Deadline, actors union SAG-AFTRA voted unanimously to go on strike starting at one minute past midnight, with picketing at all the major studios.

It marks the first time both SAG-AFTRA and the Writer’s Guild Of America have been on strike simultaneously since 1960, when future US President Ronald Reagan was President of the Screen Actors Guild.

Negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke off on Wednesday with no agreement on terms for a new contract, after which the guild’s negotiating committee unanimously recommended that the board approve strike action.

National Executive Director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said that “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”.

In a joint message to members of the guild, Crabtree-Ireland, along with SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher; went on to say “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 AMPTP’s response was to say that “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”.

The strike will shut down films and scripted TV shows that employ SAG-AFTRA members not only in the United States, but around the world. Soap operas, which fall under a separate contract, are exempted.

Deadline also reported that the cast of Oppenheimer walked out of the UK premiere last night to support the strike.

It is somewhat serendipitous that all this happened on the day the Hollywood sign, one of the most iconic symbols of the film industry, celebrated its 100th birthday.

We’ll keep you updated as we hear more.

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