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SAG-AFTRA Contract Talks Fail To Reach Deal; National Board Meeting Thursday Morning To Launch Strike; Side Issue Statements

UPDATED with AMPTP statement, 1:07 AM: Contract negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP broke off tonight, and the guild’s national board will meet Thursday morning to formally approve the launch of a strike.

It will be the first actors strike against the film and television industry since 1980 and the first time that actors and writers have been on strike at the same time since 1960, when Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild. Picking is set to start Friday morning.

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Here is the full statement from SAG-AFTRA:

SAG-AFTRA’s Television/Theatrical/Streaming contracts have expired without a successor agreement.

After more than four weeks of bargaining, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — the entity that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. Discovery — remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that are essential to SAG-AFTRA members.

In the face of the AMPTP’s intransigence and delay tactics, SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee voted unanimously to recommend to the National Board a strike of the Producers-SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical/Streaming Contracts which expired July 12, 2023, at 11:59 am pm PT.

SAG-AFTRA’s National Board will vote Thursday morning on whether to strike.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said: “SAG-AFTRA negotiated in good faith and was eager to reach a deal that sufficiently addressed performers’ needs, but the AMPTP’s responses to the union’s most important proposals have been insulting and disrespectful of our massive contributions to this industry. The companies have refused to meaningfully engage on some topics and on others completely stonewalled us. Until they negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal. We have no choice but to move forward in unity, and on behalf of our membership, with a strike recommendation to our National Board. The board will discuss the issue this morning and will make its decision.”

National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said: “The studios and streamers have implemented massive unilateral changes in our industry’s business model, while at the same time insisting on keeping our contracts frozen in amber. That’s not how you treat a valued, respected partner and essential contributor. Their refusal to meaningfully engage with our key proposals and the fundamental disrespect shown to our members is what has brought us to this point. The studios and streamers have underestimated our members’ resolve, as they are about to fully discover.”

The union will hold a press conference today, Thursday, July 13, at 12 noon PT at SAG-AFTRA Plaza in Los Angeles, following the conclusion of the National Board vote.

The AMPTP issued this statement shortly after 1 am PT:

“We are deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to walk away from negotiations. This is the Union’s choice, not ours. In doing so, it has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more. Rather than continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has put us on a course that will deepen the financial hardships for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.”

RELATED: What Happens To Hollywood (And Beyond) If The Actors Go On Strike

The Writers Guild’s strike, henceforth, is now entering its 73rd day with no end in sight. Many striking writers, however, have been rooting for SAG-AFTRA to go on strike alongside them in a show of union solidarity that will force the studios to return to the bargaining table and recognize their demands for a bigger share of the profits their work creates .

The guild’s contract had originally been set to expire on June 30 but was extended until July 12 to allow bargaining to continue.

The strike will shut down films and scripted TV shows that employ SAG-AFTRA members not only in the United States but around the world. Soap operas, which fall under a separate contract, are exempted. Under the guild’s Global Rule One: “No member shall render any services or make an agreement to perform services for any employer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the union, which is in full force and effect, in any jurisdiction in which there is is a SAG-AFTRA national collective bargaining agreement in place. This provision applies worldwide.”

RELATED: SAG-AFTRA Preparing Picket Signs As Possible Strike Looms

On Tuesday, SAG-AFTRA agreed to the companies’ proposal to bring in a federal mediator in a last-ditch effort to avert a walkout but prospects for a deal dimmed when the guild issued a harshly worded statement saying that it was “not confident that the employers have any intention of bargaining toward an agreement.”

Blindsided by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers’ eleventh-hour proposal for federal mediation and insisting that it would not agree to another contract extension, the guild said “the AMPTP has abused our trust and damaged the respect we have for them in this process. We 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.”

On June 5, the guild’s members voted 98% in favor of authorizing a strike if a fair deal couldn’t be reached. The decision to strike comes nearly three weeks after members of the Directors Guild overwhelmingly ratified their own new contract, and against the backdrop of a grassroots campaign that urged SAG-AFTRA to stand strong at the bargaining table and “join the WGA on the picket lines ” if a major “realization in our industry” can’t be achieved. More than 1,700 actors, including many prominent SAG-AFTRA members, recently signed a letter to guild leaders saying that they “would rather go on strike” and “join the WGA on the picket lines” than compromise on key issues.

That letter, which SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher also signed, said: “This is an unprecedented inflection point in our industry, and what might be considered a good deal in any other year is simply not enough. We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom, and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories.”

RELATED: SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher Says She Was Willing To Strike In 2021 Over Covid Vax Mandates

Drescher, who chairs the guild’s negotiating committee, was roundly criticized earlier this week after The deadline was the first to report that she had jetted off to Italy during the last week of negotiations where she was photographed with Kim Kardashian at Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda fashion show. Dresser returned to Los Angeles in time for the last two days of bargaining.

SAG-AFTRA explained that Drescher was “working as a brand ambassador for Dolce and Gabbana on location in Italy. This was a commitment fully known to the negotiating committee. She has been in negotiations every day either in person or via videoconference. President Dresser is managing a physically demanding schedule across three time zones, overseeing negotiations and working on location daily as well as managing her parents’ needs in Florida. She is returning to the states and will be on the ground in LA tomorrow and will continue to chair our negotiations.”

Prior to the start of contract talks on June 7, SAG-AFTRA laid out some of its key bargaining issues, which include “economic fairness, residuals, regulating the use of artificial intelligence and alleviating the burdens of the industry-wide shift to self- tape.”

With respect to economic fairness, the guild has said that “Outdated contract terms, coupled with the evolution of the media business, including shorter season orders and longer hiatus between seasons make it more difficult for our members to achieve and maintain a middle-class lifestyle working as a performer. In sharp contrast to the diminishing compensation paid to our members, the studios are posting immense profits with a bullish outlook as demonstrated by lavish corporate executive compensation.

“SAG-AFTRA is committed to ensuring our members are able to make a living performing in scripted dramatic live action entertainment. This means ensuring increased compensation when our members work, sharing up the funding of our Health, Retirement, and Pension Plans, and providing our members a meaningful share of the economic value created by their performances.”

As for residuals, the guild said: “While new business models mean that more and more SAG-AFTRA content is monetized around the globe, residuals payments are failing to reflect the economic value of this exhibition. SAG-AFTRA is committed to ensuring residual payments both reflect the economic value of our members’ contribution and serve as a meaningful source of performing earnings.

RELATED: SAG-AFTRA Strike Could Hinge On AI; Deep Divisions Remain Between Actors & Studios In Final Hours Of Talks

With respect to AI, the guild has said that “artificial intelligence has already been proven to be a real and immediate threat to the work of our members and can mimic members’ voices, likenesses and performances. We must get agreements around acceptable uses, bargain protections against misuse, and ensure consent and fair compensation for the use of your work to train AI systems and create new performances. In their public statements and policy work, the companies have not shown a desire to take our members’ basic rights to our own voices and likenesses seriously.”

RELATED: SAG-AFTRA Implements New Self-Tapping Audition Guidelines For Low-Budget Projects

Self-taped auditions, henceforth, “are unregulated and out of control,” the guild said. “Too many pages, too little time and unreasonable requirements have made self-tapping auditions a massive, daily, uncompensated burden on the lives of performers. Reasonable rules and limitations, and access to other casting formats, are sorely needed to ensure fair access to work opportunities and protect performers against exploitation.”

The guild also said that “Many other important issues, including those specific to particular careers and categories, will be on the table as well.”

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