On July 12, 2021, Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) actors will commence a strike, following the breakdown of negotiations between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The union’s national board unanimously voted to recommend a strike against the producers’ TV/Theatrical/Streaming Contracts, which expired July 12 at 11:59 p.m. PT.
The AMPTP’s refusal to address SAG-AFTRA’s key issues of protecting actors’ work and paying them fair wages has forced the actors’’ union take such drastic action. SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said that the AMPTP’s responses to their most important proposals have been “insulting and disrespectful of their massive contributions to this industry.” In addition, SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said that the Studios and Streamers have “refused to meaningfully engage on some topics and on others completely stonewalled us.”
To make matters worse, the AMPTP issued a statement saying that they were “deeply disappointed” and accused SAG-AFTRA of choosing to “dismiss our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses.”
The strike will put a heavy halt to film and scripted TV production worldwide, and actors can be expected to join the picket line on Friday morning. Meanwhile, the strike will occur alongside the Writers Guild’s own strike, which has been ongoing for 73 days. This is the first time in 61 years that actors and writers will be on strike together for the same cause.
It is important to note that soap operas, which fall under a separate contract, will be exempted from the strike. Furthermore, SAG-AFTRA had originally set their contract to expire on June 30, but extended it until July 12 to allow for further bargaining. The union also put an end to any further extensions when they said that they “will not be manipulated by this cynical ploy to engineer an extension when the companies have had more than enough time to make a fair deal.”
Prior to the start of contract talks on June 7, SAG-AFTRA had addressed some of their main bargaining issues, which include “economic fairness, residuals, regulating the use of artificial intelligence and alleviating the burdens of the industry-wide shift to self-taping.”
The SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike is indicative of the increasing disregard of their rightful share of the profits that their work creates. Unfortunately, it appears that it will take a strong show of union solidarity between the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA to force the studios to return to the bargaining table and ensure that actors, writers, and other creatives are compensated fairly for their work. In the words of SAG-AFTRA’s letter in support of a strike: “What might be considered a good deal in any other years is simply not enough. We need to reverse those trajectories.”