SAG-AFTRA members have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if upcoming contract talks fail to produce a satisfactory agreement by June 30. The vote revealed Monday was 97.91% in favor, with nearly half of eligible members — 47.69% — casting ballots. According to the union, nearly 65% of eligible members voted.
The vote comes just two days before the guild will begin bargaining for a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers; two days after the Directors Guild reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP for its own new contract; and 35 days into the ongoing Writers Guild strike.
Following the SAG-AFTRA vote, the AMPTP said this evening in a statement that “We are approaching these negotiations with the goal of achieving a new agreement that is beneficial to SAG-AFTRA members and the industry overall.”
“The strike authorization votes have been tabulated and the membership joined their elected leadership and negotiating committee in favor of strength and solidarity,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher. “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. 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.”
“I could not be more pleased with this response from the membershi,” said SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “This overwhelming yes vote is a clear statement that it’s time for an evolution in this contract. 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.”
“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,” Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland wrote in a booklet that accompanied the ballots. “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.”
“A strike is never a first option, but a last resort,” they wrote. “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. 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 union, they wrote, “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 hasn’t struck the film and TV industry since the merger of SAG and AFTRA in 2012. Their last strike against the studios was in 1980 — a 95-day walkout that established contract terms for pay-TV and videocassettes.