Hollywood is in big trouble. SAG-AFTRA, the entertainment industry’s largest union, representing 160,000 actors and performers, is on strike. Following weeks of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a 12-day extension, and the last-minute presence of a federal mediator, the actor’s guild has joined the WGA on the picket lines, demanding a better deal from the studios.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and National Executive Director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland announced that the guild would officially be on strike at midnight PST. “A strike is an instrument of last resort,” Crabtree-Ireland said, citing the weeks of failed negotiations.
“What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor by means of when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority, and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run,” Drescher told reporters. “This is a very seminal moment for us. I went in in earnest, thinking that we would be able to avert a strike. The gravity of this move is not lost on me, or our negotiating committee, or our board members who have voted unanimously to proceed with a strike. It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands, if not millions of people, all across this country and around the world.”
In early June, SAG-AFTRA overwhelmingly voted in favor of a strike should negotiations fail by June 30, the original expiration date for their studio contract. The union agreed to extend talks through July 12. Though the studios requested a federal mediator to serve as a neutral third party, which SAG-AFTRA also agreed to, the two parties were unable to make a deal by midnight, triggering a strike.
Ahead of the deadline, a series of disturbing quotes from anonymous executives warned the public that perhaps the studios were not negotiating in good faith. “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline. While many saw the quote as an admission that the studios were worried about the WGA’s sibling union striking, it mirrored the analysis in another statement released by SAG Monday.
“The AMPTP has abused our trust and damaged the respect we have for them in this process,” the union said in a statement. “We will not be manipulated by this cynical ploy to engineer an extension when the companies have had more than enough time to make a fair deal.”
Though the WGA has been unable to bring AMPTP back to the table, despite a resolution by the L.A. City Council, the demands of SAG are similar to its fellow union. Like the WGA, SAG members are seeking higher residuals as well as protections against A.I. stealing work from living, breathing, creative people who, unfortunately, require money to shelter and feed themselves. While the contracts are different, and the SAG deal would cost more given how much bigger the union is, the WGA argues that a fair contract would cost fractions of a percent of the studios’ yearly revenue, approximately $429 million across the industry. By comparison, the 2007-08 strike lasted 100 days and cost the California economy $2.1 billion.