The SAG-AFTRA union announced that members approved a strike authorization as the union goes into negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
The union, which says it “represents approximately 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals,” announced that 97.91% of members voted “in favor of a strike authorization ahead of negotiations of the TV/Theatrical Contracts, with nearly 65,000 members casting ballots for a voting percentage of 47.69% of eligible voters.”
SAG-AFTRA went on to detail what the strike authorization means noting that it “empowers the union’s National Board to initiate a strike if the AMPTP won’t reach a fair deal with the union. The current SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical Contracts expire at midnight on June 30, 2023.”
Negotiations with AMPTP are set to begin on June 7th.
The union’s President Fran Drescher commented on the strike authorization, “The strike authorization votes have been tabulated and the membership joined their elected leadership and negotiating committee in favor of strength and solidarity. I’m proud of all of you who voted as well as those who were vocally supportive, even if unable to vote. Everyone played a part in this achievement.”
She added, “Together we lock elbows and in unity we build a new contract that honors our contributions in this remarkable industry, reflects the new digital and streaming business model and brings ALL our concerns for protections and benefits into the now! Bravo SAG-AFTRA, we are in it to win it.”
SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland also stated, “I could not be more pleased with this response from the membership. This overwhelming yes vote is a clear statement that it’s time for an evolution in this contract.”
He added, “As we enter what may be one of the most consequential negotiations in the union’s history, inflation, dwindling residuals due to streaming, and generative AI all threaten actors’ ability to earn a livelihood if our contracts are not adapted to reflect the new realities. This strike authorization means we enter our negotiations from a position of strength, so that we can deliver the deal our members want and deserve.”
Deadline reports that both Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland explained their goals for the upcoming negotiations in a booklet given to members alongside the strike authorization ballots.
They said, “Our goal in this negotiation is to ensure our members working in film, television and streaming/new media can continue to earn a professional living with a contract that honors our contributions.”
“We need a contract that will increase contributions to our benefit plans and protect members from erosion of income due to inflation and reduced residuals, unregulated use of generative AI, and demanding self-taped auditions,” the duo added.
Furthermore they wrote, “A strike is never a first option, but a last resort. The business model of our industry has changed significantly. We have fully entered a digital and streaming entertainment industry, and that demands a contract that is relevant to the new business model and must be contemporary to meet the financial needs of our members today.”
“Our members are governed by contracts that reflect the business of 30 years ago,” they added. “And too much has changed since then for those contracts to serve us well. The rise of streaming, artificial intelligence (AI), and the impacts of other technology advances on entertainment, coupled with a steep increase in the cost of living — all while studio profits and executive pay rise meteorically — means that we need to seek new and imaginative ways to move forward. And believe us when we say, we have! If ever there was a time to take action and demand seminal change it is NOW!”
The two also noted that SAG-AFTRA “is entering into these negotiations in good faith and demanding a fair deal for our members from the AMPTP. We hope and expect they will respond in good faith. While the union’s leadership, National Board and negotiating committee members regard a strike as a last resort, we believe we must be ready for any eventuality, and have all of the leverage possible in order to secure the best deal.”
SAG-AFTRA has been in support of the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike. Crabtree-Ireland appeared on the picket line and said, “We were here at day one of the negotiations thanks to the invitation from Ellen and Meredith. And we’ve been standing beside the Writers Guild the whole way.”
He added, “We negotiate with the same companies. Our members are subject to the same abuses that writers are subjected to and the fact is these companies are not stepping up to the table. And for so long as the Writers Guild is out on strike SAG-AFTRA members are going to be standing here side by side with them.”
What do you make of SAG-AFTRA authorizing a strike? Do you think they will strike amid negotiations with AMPTP?