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Actor union votes to strike if contract talks go poorly

  • SAG-AFTRA enters contract negotiations with major studios on Wednesday.
  • The union wants better wages and protections from studios using AI to mimic an actor’s likeness.
  • The vote to strike gives the union power to call for a downing of tools should contract negotiations go poorly.

An overwhelming 97.91 percent of nearly 65 000 members of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have voted in favour of striking should contract negotiations not conclude in a “fair deal”.

To be clear, SAG-AFTRA isn’t going on strike just yet. The actor union is set to begin negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on 7th June. Should those negotiations not be in favour of union members, the union has the authority to call for a strike as a result of this vote. The union 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.

“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,” said SAG-AFTRA president, Fran Drescher.

The negotiations will include a call for higher pay and safeguards against the unauthorised use of artificial intelligence to mimic an actor’s likeness according to a report from Reuters.

This is the latest threat of a strike faced by Hollywood production houses. The likes of Netflix, Discovery-Warner and Sony among others have faced stoppages brought about by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) whose members downed tools in May. That strike came after AMPTP didn’t agree to WGA’s terms during contract negotiations.

Studios did avert a potential strike with the Director’s Guild of America at the weekend, but whether it can repeat that success with actor union remains to be seen.

“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,” said chief negotiator and national executive director at SAG-AFTRA, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

SAG-AFTRA has a lot of power here. While studios can try to hire non-union writers to continue producing content, actors disappearing from shows is a lot harder to deal with. With the streaming wars in full force and every member of the AMPTP trying to lure customers to their platforms, it feels like SAG-AFTRA is the dominating force here.

The WGA strike is still taking place with seemingly no end in sight and productions including Stranger Things and a number of late night talk shows having experienced production stoppages as a result.

[Image – OsloMetX from Pixabay]

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