SAG AFTRA Calls A Strike, Joining The Writers Guild After Negotiations Fail

SAG Actors To Officially Join Picket Lines Starting On Friday at the Studios

By Dolores Quintana

The film, television, and streaming contracts between The Screen Actor’s Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expired on Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m.. without what is known as a “successor agreement” or a contract that could continue the working relationship between the guilds and the producers and studios. 

SAG- AFTRA released a statement that said, “After more than four weeks of bargaining, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — the entity that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. Discovery — remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that are essential to SAG-AFTRA members.”

The actors will now join the Writers Guild on strike. The Writers Guild strike started two months ago and shows no sign of slowing down. SAG hasn’t gone on strike since 1986, or 37 years, and there hasn’t been a strike with both unions for 63 years.  

Tensions were high since, in the past few days, an anonymous statement allegedly from a studio executive stated, as quoted by Deadline, “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.” According to Deadline, this was a sentiment voiced by more than one source, and another anonymous “insider” named this tactic “a cruel but necessary evil.”

The next step was for the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee to vote on whether or not they would recommend a strike. They did. The statement was strongly worded, and it said, “In the face of the AMPTP’s intransigence and delay tactics, SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee voted unanimously to recommend to the National Board a strike of the Producers-SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical/Streaming Contracts.”

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said, “SAG-AFTRA 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. We have no choice but to move forward in unity, and on behalf of our membership, with a strike recommendation to our National Board. The board will discuss the issue this morning and will make its decision.”

Of course, the SAG National Board had to hold a final vote that would determine if the guild would call a strike after all and abandon negotiations. On Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m., the SAG National Board voted to call a strike.

National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said, “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.”

During the video press conference, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher was openly angered by the actions of the AMPTP. Her words were, “Shame on you.” 

Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland stated that Disney’s “groundbreaking” proposal regarding AI was that they wanted to pay background actors for a day and scan them. Their proposal was that they would then have rights to the actor’s image for eternity and would be able to use their image freely in as many projects as they desired and never have to give them any additional compensation. This was unacceptable to SAG-AFTRA’s leadership. 

In a statement released to Variety, the AMPTP responded and said, “A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life. The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.”

Duncan Crabtree responded, “If you think this is a historic proposal, think again.”

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