SAG-AFTRA, the prominent actors’ union in the United States, has made headlines recently as it unanimously voted to initiate a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). This trade group represents studios, broadcast networks, and streaming services in labor negotiations. The impact of this strike order is significant, as it will halt the production of almost all movies and television shows featuring live performers until both parties reach an agreement. In addition, actors will be prohibited from participating in press or promotional events such as junkets or red-carpet premieres. Notably, this strike aligns SAG-AFTRA members with the striking writers, marking the first joint strike in over 60 years. The strike was set to commence at midnight on Thursday, July 13.
The Workings of SAG-AFTRA
SAG-AFTRA is a union that represents the majority of experienced actors in the industry. Productions seeking to work with SAG-AFTRA actors must have an agreement in place with the union. Which determines actors’ pay, residuals, and working conditions. The union also negotiates an overall contract with the AMPTP, representing major studios and streamers, which sets the standards for most paid acting jobs in the industry. The contract is typically renegotiated every three years to address updates and resolve any disagreements. However, the most recent contract expired on June 30 without a new deal in place, leading to uncertainty in the industry.
What’s Behind the SAG-AFTRA Strike?
The entertainment industry has been experiencing heightened tensions between producers and the workforce, leading to what is now being referred to as the “hot labor summer.” The contracts for the Writers Guild of America (WGA), the Directors Guild of America (DGA), and SAG-AFTRA have all expired around the same time, with the WGA being the first to strike due to the unattainability of sustainable incomes for writers, particularly with the rise of streaming services. The DGA and SAG-AFTRA are also considering joining the strike. SAG-AFTRA has conducted a strike authorization vote, which resulted in an overwhelming majority in support of a strike. Indicating their determination to secure fair deals and improve labor practices in the industry. These developments reflect the industry’s efforts to address the challenges posed by evolving dynamics and ensure better working conditions for its members.
What are the SAG-AFTRA’s Demands from the AMPTP
SAG-AFTRA is advocating for better pay, improved contributions to the union’s pension and health fund. And equal residuals for streaming services. They also aim to regulate self-taped auditions, which place a burden on actors. Another concern is the potential threat of AI-generated performances replacing actors, particularly in voiceover work. Despite support for entertainment unions on social media, videos featuring AI voiceovers still gain popularity. Meanwhile, the DGA has reached a deal with the AMPTP, but criticism arises regarding its effectiveness in protecting directors from AI dilution.