As I first predicted on Twitter, the stroke of midnight came and went last night, and SAG-AFTRA did not declare a strike. Instead, it agreed to extend its current contract with the AMPTP until July 12, allowing both sides to continue negotiating today, though they’ll likely break for the upcoming holiday. If a deal hasn’t been reached by then, expect the fireworks to continue beyond the 4th of July.
While SAG leadership told union members not to “mistake this extension for weakness” and that they were extending the contract “in order to exhaust every opportunity to achieve the righteous contract we all demand and deserve,” the key issue remains artificial intelligence, according to sources. SAG-AFTRA isn’t necessarily looking to the use of AI, but it is looking to restrict AI training and ensure the actors must give their permission and be compensated when their image or likeness is used.
The extension isn’t terribly surprising, as talks were extended in both 2014 and 2017 for three additional days, and I’m sure everyone is hustling to make this happen so they can enjoy their holiday in peace.
SAG-AFTRA represents 160,000 members, who voted in overwhelming numbers to authorize a strike should it come to it. The union has been negotiating with the AMPTP since June 7 in hopes of a “transformative” deal, so they’ve only been at the table for three weeks, and while the two sides are getting closer to an agreement — SAG president Fran Drescher has called them “extremely productive” — the union is still concerned about the language surrounding AI.
SAG is also unhappy with the proposed formula for streaming residuals, as right now, actors don’t receive any kind of bonus for appearing on streaming shows that turn out to be huge hits, such as Netflix’s Stranger Things or Amazon’s The Boys.
SAG-AFTRA has promised to issue waivers to certain low-budget indie productions, but all the productions that have continued overseas despite the Writers Strike would be forced to shut down.
There has been a sense of increased solidarity among SAG-AFTRA members and WGA members, with both groups marching on picket lines for the past two months — though SAG-AFTRA hasn’t called a strike since 1980, when actors held out for 94 days in hopes of better residual payments. In this case, streamers simply don’t want to unfurl their viewership data, and the AMPTP has resisted the idea of using data from a third party, such as Parrot Analytics.
SAG ended its most recent email to members with the rather trite message, “We see you. We hear you. We are you.” If only they’d had a writer to do a punch-up on that one. For now, we’ll see if the union gets the deal its members deserve, or if it settles, effectively going along to get along, and leaving the WGA on its own.