No Deal: The First Actors-Writers Double Strike Since 1960 Is Upon Us
SAG-AFTRA national board will meet Thursday AM to officially vote on a strike
Looks like we’re in for a double strike — the first concurrent actors-writers work stoppage since 1960, when Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Negotiations between performers union SAG-AFTRA, which represents more than 160,000 members, and the AMPTP, which represents Hollywood’s major studios, concluded Wednesday without a new deal as the union’s three-year TV/theatrical contract expired at midnight, following an extension from its June 30 expiration.
Talks went down to the wire Wednesday night between the guild’s negotiating committee and the AMPTP, with about 45 people in the room and some on Zoom, I’m told.
“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,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher in a statement.
The strike will be hard on people, notes one union source familiar with the talks, who remarked on the unity of the sometimes divided actors guild.
“Unified, yes,” this person tells me. “Overjoyed this is what we HAD TO DO to save performance labor from the fucking oligarch corporate billionaires, NO!”
The AMPTP said it was “deeply disappointed” in the actors union and asserted that SAG-AFTRA had “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.”
But SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said in a statement that 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.”
SAG-AFTRA’s national board will meet on Thursday morning to officially vote on a strike, and is holding a press conference at noon following the vote. The negotiating committee voted unanimously to recommend a work stoppage.
The labor action comes as the Writers Guild of America strike enters its 73rd day on Thursday.
Here’s SAG-AFTRA’s full statement:
LOS ANGELES (July 13, 2023) – SAG-AFTRA’s Television/Theatrical/Streaming contracts have expired without a successor agreement.
After more than four weeks of bargaining, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — the entity that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBC Universal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Bros. Discovery — remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that are essential to SAG-AFTRA members.
In the face of the AMPTP’s intransigence and delay tactics, SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee voted unanimously to recommend to the National Board a strike of the Producers-SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical/Streaming Contracts which expired July 12, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. PT.
SAG-AFTRA’s National Board will vote Thursday morning on whether to strike.
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said, “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. We have no choice but to move forward in unity, and on behalf of our membership, with a strike recommendation to our National Board. The board will discuss the issue this morning and will make its decision.”
National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said, “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 union will hold a press conference today, Thursday, July 13, at 12 noon PT at SAG-AFTRA Plaza in Los Angeles, following the conclusion of the National Board vote.
And here’s the AMPTP’s full statement:
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.
Today in Strike News
After earning the most Emmy nominations of any platform, HBO and Max chief Casey Bloys praised the work of the creative minds behind the series as a way of acknowledging the strike. “The recognition of these Emmy nominations is a reminder for everybody in the industry that we are nothing without the talents of writers and actors,” says Bloys. (The Hollywood Reporter)
Bloys’ comments allude to the awkward state of affairs right now: how is anyone supposed to celebrate the normally cheerful Emmy nominations? (New York Times)
Though the impact of the strike didn’t hit right off the bat, ten weeks in, Los Angeles restaurants are starting to feel the consequences of the continued picketing. “At first there was a buzz, a party atmosphere with people coming in with their [blue WGA] shirts,” says George Metsos, who owns Toluca Lake diner Patys. “That’s since worn off. Now we’re feeling it.” (The Hollywood Reporter)
On top of the Emmys, another awards show has been feeling the heat of the strike: the ESPYs, an annual tribute to athletes, which will go without a host for the first time in its 30-year history. (Sporting News)
Co-productions between the U.S. and the U.K. have been impacted by the strike, a blow to the European production sector that’s already struggling due to a commissioning decline and rising inflation. “A lot of U.K. writers, either out of a feeling of solidarity with colleagues in the States or concerns about not being able to work in the States, don’t want to be involved in any conversations with U.S. platforms,” says Channel 4’s head of content Ian Katz. (Variety)
Studio losses could run as high as $8 billion due to the strike, but because of its status as an inevitable occurrence in the entertainment industry, insurance companies have no requirement to cover the blow. “I couldn’t even imagine how an insurance product would be helpful in this situation, since the premiums would be astronomical,” says Ross Garner, a managing director at an insurance company. (Insurance Business Magazine)
Picket Sign of the Day
A Prime scene, photographed outside Amazon Studios by WGA Captain Rachel Lewis.
Additional reporting by Matthew Frank.