There has been a looming threat of a strike by the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) for a while now. But those waiting to see if they will join the ongoing Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, will have to wait a bit longer.
Contract negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) had a deadline of June 30th. Both parties have now agreed to extend that deadline to July 12th at 11:59 pm. With negotiations reportedly set to resume on Saturday, this announcement was a bit shocking since it came mere hours before current agreements were set to expire.
This extension will also allow ongoing projects to continue operating under SAG-AFTRA agreements. If these two parties fail to reach an agreement by July 12th, the union can call a strike. In June, SAG-AFTRA members voted in favor (97.91%) of a strike if the need arose. The last time actors went on strike was in 2000, and before that, in 1988. The last time both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA were on strike together was in 1960. Point being, these two big unions don’t do this often, and it is a last resort when all other options have failed.
SAG-AFTRA warns not to “mistake this extension for weakness,” explaining this extension is mostly the result of them working with an unusually abbreviated timeframe to negotiate a “comprehensive and inclusive” deal. This decision was made “in order to exhaust every opportunity to achieve the righteous contract we all demand and deserve.” Concluding an open letter signed by numerous A-listers with an encouraging, “We see you. We hear you. We are you.”
Negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP about a new package of three-year contracts have only been going on since June 7th. Considering their decision here will affect around 160,000 performers, they want to take their time.
This latest round of contract negotiations centers around protections from artificial intelligence, raising wage floors, streaming residuals, and further regulating self-taped auditions. As well as protecting the union’s health, retirement, and pension plans. All of this is coming during a crack-down on unprofitable streamers to quickly cut spending. Hence the slew of canceled projects we’ve seen over the past year, with studios/streamers taking tax breaks instead of continuing to host projects on their platforms, which would mean payouts to both actors and writers.
SAG-AFTRA entered this negotiation with nearly 98% of its voting members greenlighting a potential strike. Which is one hell of a bargaining chip. On Tuesday, hundreds of high-profile SAG-AFTRA members also told union leaders in a letter that they were “prepared to strike” in order to reach a “transformative” deal.
But union negotiators have suggested talks with employers have been fruitful, so far. So a full-on strike MAY not be necessary. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator of SAG-AFTRA, called the negotiations “extremely productive.” “We’re standing strong and we’re going to achieve a seminal deal,” AG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher added.
We will anxiously await the July 12th deadline to see which way this goes.