And now… it’s on.
SAG-AFTRA is getting its “ducks in a row” as it prepares to negotiate with the AMPTP next month, announcing that it will hold a strike authorization vote so it can show the major studios just how many of its 16,000 members are ready to stop working in order to secure a better contract once their current agreement expires on June 30.
If SAG-AFTRA does strike, the industry would all but grind to a halt, thereby giving the WGA greater leverage in its own battle with the major studios. So this early vote likely comes as music to the ears of writers, who have done a great job of organizing picket lines to shut down productions not just in Los Angeles, but across the country, thereby costing the studios millions of dollars. The last strike cost California’s economy billions.
SAG-AFTRA will begin formally negotiating with the AMPTP on June 7, though it remains to be seen how eager the studios will be to make a deal, as they didn’t present a serious counteroffer to the WGA regarding several serious issues during that charade of a negotiation.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that SAG-AFTRA will necessarily strike, but the union’s negotiating committee apparently felt that having the strike card to play — which requires an authorization vote — would provide them with “maximum bargaining leverage.
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said that “The prospect of a strike is not a first option, but a last resort,” before quoting her own father. “As my dad always says, ‘Better to have and not need than to need and not have!'”
In 2017, SAG-AFTRA threatened to call for a strike authorization vote, though the union ultimately reached a deal with the AMPTP before having to carry through with that threat. The following year, 98 percent of SAG-AFTRA’s voting members authorized a strike when the union was negotiating its TV animation contract, and it struck a deal with the AMPTP two months later.
The union will have just over three weeks to negotiate the new contract, which is why it’s smart to get ahead of things by calling for the vote now rather than when talks break down — if they do, of course. SAG-AFTRA isn’t quite as militant as the WGA, as evidenced by Drescher’s appearance on a picket line outside Paramount, where she said that the needs of her union weren’t quite so aligned with the WGA, which may be true but is precisely the kind of division that the AMPTP is counting on. Rest assured, writers and actors are getting screwed by the studios, somehow or in some way.
Naturally, however, SAG-AFTRA isn’t worried about mini-rooms, though AI could certainly affect actors, just as it could writers — how’d you like to lose a role to Sim0ne? — and both groups of industry denizens are seeking better residuals.
“The outlook for working actors becomes unsustainable without transformative change,” read the press release from SAG-AFTRA. Let’s hope that change arrives sooner rather than later, as tens of thousands of families are counting on it.