SAG-AFTRA, the union representing screen actors, appears poised to go on strike as its contract with studios expired at midnight Wednesday without a deal, with a formal vote to come Thursday morning, a potentially seismic event for the entertainment industry as actors join the Writers Guild of America in walking off the job to demand a stronger contract.
SAG-AFTRA said in a statement early Thursday that the union’s contract had expired without a deal or extension to negotiations, with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents major television and film producers and streamers, “remain[ing] unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that are essential to SAG-AFTRA members.”
The union’s negotiating committee voted unanimously to recommend a strike, the statement said, and SAG-AFTRA’s National Board will vote Thursday morning on whether to strike.
A press conference is planned for 12 p.m. Pacific time following the vote.
In a statement to Forbes, the AMPTP said it was “deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to walk away from negotiations,” calling the lack of a deal “the union’s choice, not ours.”
160,000. That’s how many members SAG-AFTRA has in total, according to the union. The strike will specifically affect the union’s film and television members, however, and workers under a different contract—like broadcast journalists—will be unaffected, per NPR.
“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,” SAG President Fran Drescher said in a statement. “We have no choice but to move forward in unity, and on behalf of our membership, with a strike recommendation to our National Board.”
“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,” the AMPTP said in a statement, saying its offer to the union had included “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.”
What To Watch For
While the WGA strike has already shut down an estimated 80% of film and television production, according to the New York Times, an actors’ strike will shut down any remaining production that’s still been going on, such as filming that’s taking place in the United Kingdom or unscripted reality shows. Actors will also be barred from any work promoting their film and television projects, and the strike is anticipated to have an outsized impact on San Diego Comic-Con, taking place July 21-23, as the union has instructed actors not to speak at any panel discussions. The movie Oppenheimer moved up the start time of its premiere in London Thursday in anticipation of the strike, so that the cast could attend before the strike likely begins.
What We Don’t Know
How long a strike will last. SlashFilm notes actors strikes have historically been shorter than ones by writers, as studios are more willing to give into their demands, and Deadline reported in June that studio executives so far do not have plans to push back 2023 movie theatrical release dates in anticipation of a strike getting drawn out. If the strike does last for a while, it could affect major Christmas releases, however, as studios could push back release dates if stars aren’t able to help promote them, Deadline notes. Movies coming out in the first part of 2024—which are likely still finishing up production—are probably the most likely to be impacted by a strike, like the upcoming Dirty Dancing sequel and gangster film Wise Guys.
SAG-AFTRA’s strike would mark the first time both the actors and writers’ unions have gone on strike since 1960, when then-SAG President (and future U.S. president) Ronald Reagan led the union. The strike comes as the WGA has already been on strike since May, and both unions’ contract negotiations have been particularly focused on securing better residual payments for work on streaming services and stronger protections against AI. The SAG-AFTRA strike comes after union members authorized a strike in June with a vote of 97.91%, with more than 1,000 members—including stars like Paul Giamatti, Pedro Pascal, Charlize Theron, Joaquin Phoenix, Aubrey Plaza and Ewan McGregor—signing a letter to union leadership saying they were “prepared to strike.” SAG-AFTRA’s contract was initially scheduled to expire on June 30, but the union and AMPTP extended negotiations through July 12, and the two sides’ failure to reach a deal comes even as negotiators agreed to call in a federal mediator on Tuesday in an effort to avert a strike.