Failed SAG-AFTRA Contract Talks Lead to Impending Strike; National Board Meeting Set for Thursday Morning

SAG-AFTRA Contract

Contract negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP hit a deadlock, prompting the guild’s national board to convene on Thursday morning to authorize a strike officially.

This strike marks the first actors’ protest against the film and television industry since 1980 and a rare occurrence of simultaneous strikes by actors and writers since 1960, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency at the Screen Actors Guild. Picketing is scheduled to commence on Friday morning. Here is the complete statement from SAG-AFTRA:

SAG-AFTRA’s Television/Theatrical/Streaming contracts have expired without securing a new agreement. Following over four weeks of negotiations, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), representing significant studios and streamers like Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Bros. Discovery, has shown reluctance to offer a fair deal on critical matters that are vital to SAG-AFTRA members.

In response to the AMPTP’s inflexibility and delay tactics, SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee unanimously voted to recommend a strike of the Producers-SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical/Streaming Contracts, which expired on July 12, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. PT.

The National Board of SAG-AFTRA will vote on Thursday morning to decide whether to proceed with the strike.

Fran Drescher, the President of SAG-AFTRA, expressed, “SAG-AFTRA negotiated in good faith and was eager to reach a deal that adequately addressed the needs of performers. However, the AMPTP’s responses to our essential proposals have been offensive and disrespectful, considering the substantial contributions we make to this industry. The companies have evaded meaningful engagement on certain topics and completely stonewalled us on others. Until they demonstrate genuine willingness to negotiate, reaching an agreement is impossible. We have no option but to stand together and, on behalf of our membership, recommend a strike to our National Board. The board will deliberate on the matter this morning and make its decision.”

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, added, “While the studios and streamers have unilaterally implemented significant changes to our industry’s business model, they insist on keeping our contracts frozen in time. This disrespectful approach, coupled with their refusal to engage sincerely in our crucial proposals, has brought us to this point. The studios and streamers have underestimated our members’ determination, which they are about to witness firsthand.” The Union will hold a press conference today, Thursday, July 13, at noon PT at SAG-AFTRA Plaza in Los Angeles after the National Board vote concludes.

In response, the AMPTP issued the following statement shortly after 1 a.m. PT:

“We are deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has chosen to walk away from negotiations. This decision lies with the Union, not us. In doing so, they have disregarded our offer, which included historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal to safeguard actors’ digital likenesses, among other benefits. Instead of continuing negotiations, SAG-AFTRA has set us on a path that will worsen the financial hardships faced by thousands whose livelihoods depend on this industry.”

Meanwhile, the Writers Guild’s strike has entered its 73rd day with no resolution. Many striking writers have expressed support for SAG-AFTRA’s potential strike as a show of union solidarity aimed at compelling the studios to return to the bargaining table and acknowledge their demands for a more significant share of the profits generated by their work.

Originally scheduled to expire on June 30, the guild’s contract was extended until July 12 to allow continued negotiations.

The impending strike will halt the production of films and scripted TV shows employing SAG-AFTRA members in the United States and worldwide. Soap operas, covered under a separate contract, are exempt from the strike. As per the guild’s Global Rule One, “No member shall render any services or make an agreement to perform services for any employer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the Union, which is in full force and effect, in any jurisdiction in which there is a SAG-AFTRA national collective bargaining agreement in place. This provision applies worldwide.” On Tuesday, SAG-AFTRA accepted the companies’ proposal to involve a federal mediator as a last-ditch effort to avoid a walkout. However, prospects for an agreement dimmed when the guild issued a strongly worded statement expressing doubts about the employers’ intentions to negotiate a resolution.

Caught off guard by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers’ last-minute suggestion for federal mediation and refusing to agree to another contract extension, the guild stated that “the AMPTP has violated our trust and undermined the respect we had for them throughout this process. We won’t be manipulated by this cynical ploy to engineer an extension when the companies have had ample time to offer a fair deal.”

On June 5, guild members voted 98% in favor of authorizing a strike if a fair deal could not be reached. The decision to strike comes nearly three weeks after the Directors Guild overwhelmingly ratified their new contract. Against the backdrop of a grassroots campaign urging SAG-AFTRA to stand firm at the bargaining table and “join the WGA on the picket lines” if a significant “realignment in our industry” cannot be achieved, more than 1,700 actors, including prominent SAG-AFTRA members, signed a letter to guild leaders stating that they would prefer to strike and stand in solidarity with the WGA rather than compromise on critical issues. The letter, signed by SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher, stated, “This is an unprecedented turning point in our industry, and what may be deemed a satisfactory deal in other years is simply insufficient. We believe that our wages, craft, creative freedom, and the power of our Union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse these trends.” Fran Drescher, who chairs the guild’s negotiating committee, faced criticism earlier this week after it was reported that she had traveled to Italy during the final week of negotiations and was photographed with Kim Kardashian at Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda fashion show. Drescher returned to Los Angeles in time for the last two days of bargaining.

SAG-AFTRA clarified that Drescher was fulfilling her commitment as a brand ambassador for Dolce & Gabbana in Italy, a fact known to the negotiating committee. She has been actively involved in negotiations daily, either in person or via videoconference. President Drescher manages a demanding schedule across three time zones, oversees negotiations, works on location daily, and attends to her parents’ needs in Florida. She will return to Los Angeles and be present for further talks.

Before the commencement of contract talks on June 7, SAG-AFTRA identified several critical issues for negotiation, including “economic fairness, residuals, regulating the use of artificial intelligence, and mitigating the challenges posed by the industry-wide shift to self-taping.”

Regarding economic fairness, the guild emphasized, “Outdated contract terms, coupled with changes in the media business, such as shorter season orders and extended hiatus periods between

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