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No Deal Yet, But Talks Expected to Continue Friday
➕ A chat with Ralph Nader (longtime SAG-AFTRA member!) about the negotiations
It’s a battle over percentages at this stage, which might be reassuring to industry observers looking for any sign of optimism that the negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood’s studios are inching toward a resolution after meeting again today.
According to the trades, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is offering the actors union a minimum rate increase of 7 percent in its next three-year contract, though a source close to the talks tells me that’s “not exactly right” and that the counteroffer is not a round 7 percent increase. (Six percent and change, perhaps?) You’ll recall the guild had initially sought out an 11 percent increase and the studios had offered a 5 percent bump.
Overall though, “nothing was resolved,” says a separate studio-side source.
Both parties are expected to meet again Friday, which would mark the third time in the room proper this week. On Tuesday, SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP met at the union’s headquarters near the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, and studio leaders Bob Iger (Disney), David Zaslav (Warner Bros. Discovery), Donna Langley (Universal) and Ted Sarandos (Netflix) were spotted lunching at ever-popular Frenchy dining spot République less than a mile away, presumably during a break in the room. Wednesday’s face-to-face talks were then pushed to today.
So, bottom line: no deal yet. But it looks like things are moving somewhere, which is better than nowhere, which is where we were when talks screeched to a halt two weeks ago.
Still, 105 days into this contract brawl, even as picket lines remain active, fatigue and annoyance is setting in.
“It’s rather frustrating for the guild to see studio-side reports in the trades before the negotiating committee has even had the chance to actually convene on the details of the day’s negotiations,” says a source close to the talks. (Getting Writers Guild strike déjà vu here.)
As for the other details of the talks, I’m told money matters have taken a priority over AI and other issues for now. Given the host of items that SAG-AFTRA’s 160,000 varied members — actors, singers, dancers, stunt people, et al. — have brought to the table and presumably still need to sort through, I’d be surprised if a deal were announced by the weekend. (But I would love to be wrong.)
A union spokesperson would only tell me that “SAG-AFTRA declines to comment due to our ongoing negotiations and deep focus on negotiating in good faith to secure a fair deal for SAG-AFTRA members.”
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Ralph Nader, Longtime SAG-AFTRA Member, Has Thoughts
Meanwhile, I chatted earlier this week with Ralph Nader, consumer advocate, four-time presidential candidate and — did you know this next part? I did not — 45-year SAG-AFTRA member. (He tells me got his AFTRA card on the network TV/radio show circuit back in the day. According to an old Washington Post clipping, he also appeared on an episode of the 1977 reboot of Laugh-In.)
Nader reached out to The Ankler “simply as a union member on strike, how do you like that?”
Here’s a snippet of our convo:
“This is a struggle that’s going to mean something to millions of workers in the country,” Nader says, because “this is one of the first few real negotiations over AI. (Automation is one of the topics currently at play for the striking United Auto Workers, who have reportedly come to a deal with Ford at the time of this writing, and is growing into a looming worry for workers in other sectors.)
“If they settle too quickly, they may not get another chance as the forces of automation lock in and force them up against the wall,” he continues. “This AI thing is particularly devastating for this industry, as you know, and it's moving very fast.”
Nader is no stranger to fighting for regulation over quick-moving technologies — the attorney’s 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed, challenged the American makers of bigger, shinier, faster cars and ultimately prompted the creation of what is now known as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Less than a year after the book’s publication, Nader would find himself at the White House, watching President Lyndon B. Johnson sign into law two major motor safety bills.
On the SAG-AFTRA front, though, he’s hit a bit of a wall. Nader has called up Warren Beatty, “who I’ve known for a long time,” and his letters have gotten as far as Drescher’s executive assistant. At one point, he had managed to get a meeting on the books with Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland over the last month, but it was postponed twice and is now indefinitely delayed. (A union official confirms that a meeting was on the calendar but was canceled due to the ongoing negotiations.)
I also spoke with longtime labor activist and union organizer Ray Rogers, whose activism included 1970s-era efforts versus textiler J.P. Stevens & Company, the labor battle memorialized in Sally Field’s Oscar winner Norma Rae.
Nader and Rogers have developed something of a friendship over the years, and the two men have been talking “almost every day” in recent weeks, says Rogers, calling his fellow activist “the man of greatest integrity.” About an hour into our conversation on Tuesday night, Rogers says he’s getting a call from Nader, and we adjourn. The next morning, he tells me that Nader had rang again, this time around midnight, to ask who had won the Diamondbacks game. Nader was rooting for the Phillies.
Rogers’ friends and neighbors in East Harlem who work in entertainment have approached him about getting involved in the strike. In New York, the tales of woe he hears echo those happening out here in Los Angeles — second and third jobs, financial hardship, worries about having to leave the industry.
“It’s not about getting a good contract, it’s about the quality of life,” says Rogers, who has been out on the picket lines several times over the course of the writers’ and actors’ work stoppages and says he’s spoken to Susan Sarandon about the strike. While he hails Drescher as possibly being the “next Norma Rae” and praises her fiery rhetoric, the self-described pioneer of the “corporate campaign concept” has a few suggestions.
Read the full story here, for The Ankler’s paid subscribers.