What felt inevitable is now official: Deadline reports that SAG-AFTRA‘s national board voted unanimously this morning to launch its first strike since 1980. The strike begins tomorrow, July 14 at one minute past midnight, with picketing to start in front of studios tomorrow. SAG-AFTRA’s decision comes 73 days into the ongoing WGA writers’ strike, and marks the first time both guilds have been on strike at the same time since 1960.
SAG-AFTRA’s contract was originally set to expire on June 30, but was extended to July 12 by the Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers to allow bargaining between the two companies to continue. But a last-minute attempt to reach a deal, which saw AMPTP bring in a federal mediator into the proceedings, failed, and another contract extension wasn’t provided. A SAG-AFTRA statement yesterday said it was “not confident that the employers have any intention of bargaining toward an agreement,” and that “the AMPTP has abused our trust and damaged the respect we have for them in the process.” “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,” the statement continued.
And that brings things up to date. After negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP ended last night with no new agreement in place, the guild’s negotiating committee unanimously approved a strike. This comes after guild members voted 98% in favor of authorizing a strike if new terms couldn’t be reached on June 5. SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher and its National Executive Director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland held a press conference at the SAG-AFTRA national headquarters today to in Los Angeles to officially announce the guild’s strike.
At the conference, Drescher said that SAG-AFTRA “negotiated in good faith and was eager to reach a deal that sufficiently addressed performer needs, but the AMPTP’s responses to the union’s most important proposals have been insulting and disrespectful of our massive contributions to this industry. The companies have refused to meaningfully engage on some topics and on others completely stonewalled us. Until they do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal.”
Said Crabtree-Ireland added, “The studios and streamers have implemented massive unilateral changes in our industry’s business model, while at the same time insisting on keeping our contracts frozen in amber. That’s not how you treat a valued, respected partner and essential contributor. Their refusal to meaningfully engage with our key proposals and the fundamental disrespect shown to our members is what has brought us to this point. The studios and streamers have underestimated our members’ resolve, as they are about to fully discover.”
The AMPTP published a statement of their own early this morning, stating “We are deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to walk away from negotiations. This is the Union’s choice, not ours. In doing so, it has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more. Rather than continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has put us on a course that will deepen the financial hardship for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.”
Before today’s meeting with the SAG-AFTRA national board, Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland sent a message to members that covered key strike issues. “Over the past decade, your compensation has been severely eroded by the rise of the streaming ecosystem,” read the statement. “Furthermore, artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to creative professions, and all actors and performers deserve contract language that protects them from having their identity and talent exploited without consent and pay. Despite our team’s dedication to advocating on your behalf, the AMPTP has refused to acknowledge that enormous shifts in the industry and economy have had a detrimental impact on those who perform labor for the studios.”
“We’ve engaged in negotiations in good faith and remained eager to reach a deal that sufficiently addressed performer concerns, the AMPTP’s responses to our proposals have not been adequate,” continued the statement. “Our 90-year history is a testament to what can be achieved through our conviction and unity. For the future of our profession, we stand together.” Yesterday marked the 90th anniversary of the Screen Actors Guild, founded on July 12, 1933.
So what effects will the SAG-AFTRA strike have an industry already in crisis? Starting tomorrow, the strike shuts down films and scripted TV shows with employed SAG-AFTRA members worldwide. Soap operas, which operate under a separate contract, are exempted from the strikes. The strike is in accordance to SAG-AFTRA’s Global Rule One, which states, ““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.”
While the Directors Guilt ratified a new contract with the AMPTP three weeks ago, SAG-AFTRA members now join WGA strikers on the picket line. After the Directors Guild’s new contract, a grassroots effort urged SAG-AFTRA to stand in solidarity with the WGA and “join [them] on the picket lines if a major “realignment in our industry” can’t be achieved. An open letter to guild members received over 1700 signatures from SAG-AFTRA members, stating that they “would rather go on strike” and “join the WGA on the picket lines” than compromise with AMPTP. “This is an unprecedented inflection point in our industry,” read the letter, “and what might be considered a good deal in any other years is simply not enough. We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom, and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories.”
As noted earlier, SAG-AFTRA’s strike becomes official at 12:01a tomorrow, July 14. Updates on the ongoing strikes as they come.