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SAG-AFTRA Announce Double Strike as Actors Join Writers

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New York NY USA-July 14, 2023 Members of SAG-AFTRA and other union supporters picket outside the HBOAmazon offices in the Hudson Yards neighborhood in New York (rblfmr/shutterstock.com)
New York NY USA-July 14, 2023 Members of SAG-AFTRA and other union supporters picket outside the HBO Amazon offices in the Hudson Yards neighborhood in New York (rblfmr/shutterstock.com)

SAG-AFTRA Launches Double Strike, Uniting Actors and Writers on Picket Lines.

In an unprecedented move, SAG-AFTRA has officially declared a strike against film and TV companies, marking a significant moment in Hollywood history as actors join forces with writers on picket lines.

During a press conference, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the chief negotiator of SAG-AFTRA, announced that the 's national board unanimously approved the strike recommendation put forth by the negotiating committee. “Union members must withhold their labor until a fair contract is achieved,” Crabtree-Ireland emphasized, addressing SAG actors and journalists. “We have been left with no choice.”

The strike is scheduled to commence at midnight on Friday, accompanied by picketing on Friday morning. As outlined in the guidelines, SAG-AFTRA members will refrain from attending premieres, participating in for completed work, attending awards shows and film festivals, or promoting projects on social media for the duration of the strike.

Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA, passionately expressed frustration during the press conference, stating, “An exceedingly greedy industry is exploiting us. We will no longer tolerate this. You are acting irrationally and irresponsibly.

Drescher argued streaming and artificial intelligence disrupted the entertainment industry's business model, but the SAG-AFTRA contracts must be updated to reflect these advancements. She added, “If we don't take a firm stand now, we will all be in jeopardy. You must expect the contract to remain the same when the industry's landscape has changed drastically. They should be ashamed.

The union's contract expired at midnight on , following a month of negotiations that yielded minimal progress on several critical issues. SAG-AFTRA has highlighted the role of artificial intelligence and the shift to streaming as compelling reasons for initiating the work stoppage.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television , which represents the studios, contends that it presented a historic deal encompassing significant pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal safeguarding actors' digital likenesses for SAG-AFTRA members.

Expressing disappointment with the strike, the AMPTP stated, “A strike is not the outcome we had hoped for, as the studios rely heavily on the performers who bring our TV shows and films to life. Regrettably, the union has chosen a path that will cause financial hardship for countless individuals who depend on the industry.”

In response to the AMPTP's statement, Crabtree-Ireland retorted during the press conference, “If you believe this proposal is historic, think again.”

All governed by the SAG-AFTRA TV and film contract will cease immediately, grinding projects to a halt both in the United States and globally. This strike is the first under the performers' film and TV contract since 1980.

The sole previous occurrence of a “double strike,” involving both actors and writers, transpired in 1960 under the leadership of Reagan in the Screen Actors Guild. During that strike, writers and actors were grappling with issues arising from the advent of television. Together, they achieved residuals for TV reruns and broadcasts of films on TV, along with establishing the first pension and welfare plan.

In the current situation, both unions are combating the impact of streaming TV, which they argue has suppressed wages and hindered middle-class creators' ability to sustain their careers. Both associations are also concerned about the potential devaluation of their work and even the possibility of being replaced entirely by artificial intelligence.

The (WGA) expressed unwavering support for SAG-AFTRA, stating, “We stand firmly behind our union colleagues in SAG-AFTRA as they embark on their work stoppage.”

The WGA negotiating committee conveyed, “The last time our unions simultaneously went on strike, actors and writers secured groundbreaking provisions that continue to benefit us to this day, including residuals and pension and health funds.”

Although the studios have offered significant wage increases and AI protections, they have refused a key demand from both unions—to share streaming viewership data and provide more substantial compensation for highly successful shows.

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