The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has officially voted to go on strike, joining the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which has been striking for over two months.
SAG-AFTRA Strike Begins at Midnight Tonight
A full video of the 3 p.m. EST press conference announcing this decision is available below:
This strike begins at midnight tonight, and will specifically impact those under the 2020 TV & Theatrical contract, meaning a few members will be exempt in areas such as interactive entertainment, audio books, and commercials, among others. SAG-AFTRA has not gone on strike against television and film companies for over four decades, and both writers and actors have not been striking together at the same time since 1960.
“Union members should withhold their labor until a fair contract can be achieved,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director and chief negotiator of SAG-AFTRA, said. “They have left us with no alternative.”
SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher explained the reasoning further, citing the streaming service model and artificial intelligence as major concerns.
We are being victimized by a very greedy enterprise. At some point you have to say ‘no, we’re not going to take this anymore. You people are crazy. What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’
Before negotiations began on June 7, 97.91% of SAG-AFTRA members voted in favor of a strike authorization if agreements could not be made. After the contract (which was extended to July 12) expired last night, the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee voted unanimously to recommend a strike. The committee was negotiating with various studios and streamers, including Disney, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros., Netflix, and Amazon.
In a statement last night, 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. 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.”
Fran Drescher, while facing criticism herself for a trip to Italy amidst negotiations, said of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, “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 do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal.”
SAG-AFTRA is making demands similar to the WGA regarding streaming and restrictions on AI technology being used to replicate a performer’s likeness. WGA previously said the current state of the industry was turning it into a “gig economy” that was detrimental to writers.
Even before officially striking, SAG-AFTRA members appeared alongside WGA members on picket lines in Hollywood.
AMPTP spokesperson Scott Rowe said in a statement, “Rather than continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has put us on a course that will deepen the financial hardship for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.”
Impact on Disney
The “Haunted Mansion” premiere planned for Disneyland Resort this weekend will still go forward but without the film’s actors, who will not be allowed to promote the film amidst the strike. The premiere may just be a fan event, or crew members such as director Justin Simien may appear. The event will take place on Saturday, July 15, at Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure. About 2,000 guests, including fans, are expected to attend. A pre-reception is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. and the movie screening will begin at 7:00 p.m. PT.
Several Marvel Cinematic Universe films had their release dates shifted amidst the WGA strike. The SAG-AFTRA strike could lead to more delays and potentially a temporary suspension of the entire film industry.
In an interview with CNBC, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the two strikes were “very disturbing” to him and the unions’ expectations were “not realistic.”
“It will have a very, very damaging effect on the whole business,” he added, “and unfortunately, there’s huge collateral damage in the industry to people who are supportive services, and I could go on and on. It will affect the economy of different regions, even, because of the sheer size of the business. It’s a shame, it is really a shame.”
The combined impact of both actors and writers refraining from any projects will likely grind Hollywood to a complete halt, dramatically constricting streaming services such as Disney+ and the Walt Disney Studios in general as union members fight for a new deal.