Hollywood Actors Strike: ‘It’s Only Going to Get Worse’

Hollywood Actors Strike: ‘It’s Only Going to Get Worse’

SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher (L) and SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland speak during a press conference announcing a strike by The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in Los Angeles on July, 13, 2023. (Chris Pizzello/AP Photo)

Catherine Yang

Catherine Yang


Updated: 7/14/2023

Summer blockbusters aren’t going to see any actors on red carpets and promotional events—the “Oppenheimer” cast attending the film premiere in the UK have just walked off to join the actors strike.
In a Thursday morning vote, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) unanimously decided to strike. On July 14, the actors will picket.
The historic walk-out comes after contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios, fell apart midnight July 12, even after a federal mediator was called in at the eleventh hour. The contracts were originally set to expire June 30, but negotiations were extended 12 days.
This is the first SAG-AFTRA strike in about 40 years, and the first time both actors and writers have been on strike together since 1960.
Guild leaders described the crossroads as an existential one that many industries face. Namely, will technology eclipse human contribution?
When businesses look to Wall Street for answers instead of their creative collaborators, that answer has become yes, according to Fran Drescher, SAG-AFTRA President and co-chief negotiator.
“The eyes of labor are upon us. What happens here is important, because it’s happening across all fields of labor,” said Ms. Drescher at a press conference after the vote.
“I went in in earnest, thinking we could avoid a strike,” she said. “The gravity of this move is not lost on me.”
“The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, AI—this is a moment of history, and a moment of truth. If we don’t stand tall right now we are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines and big business, who cares more about Wall Street than you and your family,” she said.

Historic Deal?

The big issues on the table had been streaming residuals and AI on top of the regular negotiations on minimum increases.
AMPTP released its own statement after the actors’ announcement of a strike, claiming studios presented “a deal that offered historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal.”
Thursday morning, Disney CEO Bob Iger went on CNBC to criticize the union’s decision to walk out as “disruptive.”
Disney CEO Robert Iger visits FOX Business Network's 'Markets Now' at FOX Studios on Sept. 24, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Disney CEO Robert Iger visits FOX Business Network's 'Markets Now' at FOX Studios on Sept. 24, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

“It’s very disturbing to me. We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID which is ongoing, it’s not completely back. This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption,” Mr. Iger said.
“There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”
SAG-AFTRA pushed back on AMPTP’s claims in a press conference held after Thursday’s vote.
“This ‘groundbreaking AI proposal’ that they gave us yesterday ... they proposed that our background actors should be able to get scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their companies should own that scan, their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want with no consent and no compensation,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, co-chief negotiator. “If you think that’s a groundbreaking proposal, you should think again.”
Crabtree-Ireland added that the strike in 1960 was the reason members have a health plan, pension plan, and residuals, noting that SAG-AFTRA was not a “strike-happy” union.
“This is the same kind of strike, this is the kind of strike that makes sure this industry changes its business model so our members are not left behind,” he said.
Ms. Drescher and Mr. Crabtree-Ireland said they had spoken at length with several studio CEOs just a day ago when they came in to partake in the stalling negotiations. Now the ball is in their court, SAG-AFTRA leaders say.
“We’re open to talking to them—tonight,” Ms. Drescher said.
Mr. Crabtree-Ireland said they said as much last night when negotiations ended, but later heard back from AMPTP that “it would probably be a while.”
Under the strike terms, actors will not be participating in any production or promotions for works under the expired contract.
Studios and streaming platforms have already delayed or canceled several productions, as the Writers Guild of America East and the Writers Guild of America West have been on strike since May, relying on unscripted programs that now may no longer be an option.
“Our hearts bleed that we had to make this decision, but we can’t not get what these members deserve, because it’s only going to get worse,” Ms. Drescher said.
Several other unions, including the Directors Guild of America, which did sign a contract with AMPTP, voiced their support for SAG-AFTRA.
Catherine Yang

Catherine Yang


Catherine Yang is a reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York.

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