The crisis in Hollywood is close to getting worse. Actors agreed Monday to go on strike if the union does not reach an agreement with studios. According to the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), 97.91% of the actors who are part of the group voted in favor of joining the screenwriters and starting their own strike as of June 30 if they are unable to reach a new agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP):
In a powerful show of solidarity, SAG-AFTRA members have voted 97.91% 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. https://t.co/sJiswszU1T
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) June 6, 2023
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said after the vote that this agreement is a big step forward "in favor of strength and solidarity."
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. 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.
Consequences of actors strike
Union support does not mean that the collective will go on strike, at least not until negotiations are completed. It does mean that if SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP do not reach an agreement by June 30, actors would not only not show up for filming, but would also be absent during the promotion of their films or series.
The actors' union is requesting that studios improve working conditions, similar to concerns raised by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) before their strike. Some demands include: an increase in salaries, especially in view of the impact of productions on streaming platforms, and ensuring that actors are protected against the use of unauthorized images made using artificial intelligence. This was explained by the union's chief negotiator, National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who thanked the organization's members for their support:
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. As we enter what may be one of the most consequential negotiations in the union’s history, inflation, dwindling residuals due to streaming (a type of royalties), 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.
Directors are the only union to reach an agreement
The possible actors' strike would come at a bad time for the U.S. film industry. Six weeks ago, the screenwriters completely stopped working and, since then, the effects have been extremely evident, with late-night shows, TV series and movies shutting down production indefinitely.
However, all is not lost. The AMPTP was able to reach an agreement in principle with the third union that threatened to go on strike: the directors' union. The association that represents them, the Directors Guild of America (DGA), issued a statement Sunday announcing that it had reached an agreement with the studios. Jon Avnet, chairman of the union's negotiating committee, made the announcement:
We have concluded a truly historic deal. It provides significant improvements for every Director, Assistant Director, Unit Production Manager, Associate Director and Stage Manager in our Guild. In these negotiations we made advances on wages, streaming residuals, safety, creative rights and diversity, as well as securing essential protections for our members on new key issues like artificial intelligence – ensuring DGA members will not be replaced by technological advances. This deal would not have been possible without the unity of the DGA membership, and we are grateful for the strong support of union members across the industry.