On July 13, the national board of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA(opens in a new tab)) voted to go on strike. The action follows weeks of talks between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP(opens in a new tab)), all leading up to the expiration of SAG-AFTRA’s current contract.
Negotiations between actors and the studios broke down after a two-week extension of the original deadline(opens in a new tab), as well as a last-ditch effort by the AMPTP to bring in a federal mediator(opens in a new tab) on the final day of talks. Based on a June 27 letter sent to SAG-AFTRA leadership(opens in a new tab) and signed by over 300 A-list actors, including Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, members of SAG-AFTRA sought a “transformative deal.” Concerns included reduced income, streaming residuals, and the use of AI in filmmaking.
Many of these concerns are echoed by another striking Hollywood union: the Writers Guild of America (WGA(opens in a new tab)), which has been on strike since May 2. Just like with SAG-AFTRA, the WGA’s talks with the AMPTP did not result in a fair deal from the studios. Now, Hollywood faces the first joint SAG-AFTRA and WGA strike since 1960, bringing the entertainment industry as we know it to a standstill.
SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland detailed the reasoning behind the strike at a July 13 press conference.
“The AMPTP has remained steadfast in its commitment to devaluing the work of our members. Actors deserve a contract that reflects the changes that have taken place in the industry. Currently, the current streaming model has undercut performers’ residual income, and high inflation had reduced our members’ ability to make ends meet,” Crabtree-Ireland said.
He continued: “To complicate matters further, actors now face an existential threat to their livelihoods with the rise of generative AI technology. We’ve proposed contract changes that address these issues, but the AMPTP has been uninterested in our proposals.”
Crabtree-Ireland noted that the strike will not impact every member of SAG-AFTRA, just those working under the 2020 TV and theatrical contract. Actors in other contract areas, such as interactive entertainment and commercials, will not be directly impacted.
Drescher followed Crabtree-Ireland’s remarks with a fiery speech denouncing the AMPTP, saying: “We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us. I cannot believe it, quite frankly, how far apart we are on so many things. How they plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right when giving hundreds of millions dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them. They are on the wrong side of history.”
She continued: “At this very moment, we stand in solidarity in unprecedented unity. Our union, and our sister unions, and the unions around the world are standing by us, as well as other labor unions, because at some point the jig is up.”
Like Crabtree-Ireland, Drescher also spoke about the rise of AI and how the streaming model negatively impacts performers. Drescher concluded: “We are labor, and we stand tall, and we demand respect and to be honored for our contribution. You share the wealth because you cannot exist without us.”
UPDATE: Jul. 13, 2023, 3:42 p.m. EDT Updated to include remarks from SAG-AFTRA.