news SAG-AFTRA Members Approve Strike Authorization with 97.91 Percent of Vote

Members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) have overwhelmingly approved a strike authorization vote ahead of the union beginning negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), with 97.91 percent of members who participated voting “yes” in the vote.

The guild also announced that nearly 65,000 members cast ballots, which is 47.69 percent of the guild’s over 160,000 members who were eligible to send in ballots. Only 75 percent “yes” votes were necessary in order to grant guild leaders the power to call for a strike if necessary.

This doesn’t mean that the actors are definitely going on strike, but merely that they’re willing to go to the picket lines if a fair deal isn’t reached with the studios.

SAG took the surprising step of authorizing a strike even before negotiations with the AMPTP begin on June 7, and both SAG’s negotiating committee and national board unanimously approved the authorization vote back in May. It gives the guild added leverage once talks begin this week.

SAG’s contract with the studios expires on June 30, and the WGA has been on strike since May 1. SAG’s contract talks come in the wake of the DGA reaching a deal with the AMPTP over the weekend. While the conventional wisdom is that the financial gains and language surrounding AI could serve as a pattern for other guilds in their own talks, both SAG and the WGA have been clear they will not allow the DGA’s deal to influence their own negotiating agenda.

“The strike authorization votes have been tabulated and the membership joined their elected leadership and negotiating committee in favor of strength and solidarity. I’m proud of all of you who voted as well as those who were vocally supportive, even if unable to vote. Everyone played a part in this achievement,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher. “Together we lock elbows and in unity we build a new contract that honors our contributions in this remarkable industry, reflects the new digital and streaming business model and brings ALL our concerns for protections and benefits into the now! Bravo SAG-AFTRA, we are in it to win it.”

“I could not be more pleased with this response from the membership. This overwhelming yes vote is a clear statement that it’s time for an evolution in this contract. As we enter what may be one of the most consequential negotiations in the union’s history, inflation, dwindling residuals due to streaming, and generative AI all threaten actors’ ability to earn a livelihood if our contracts are not adapted to reflect the new realities. This strike authorization means we enter our negotiations from a position of strength, so that we can deliver the deal our members want and deserve,” said SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

The AMPTP said in a statement to press that “We are approaching these negotiations with the goal of achieving a new agreement that is beneficial to SAG-AFTRA members and the industry overall.”

If the actors were to join the writers on strike, virtually all production would shut down across Hollywood, leading to further delays in the TV season and likely delays in the release of future feature films. As IndieWire recently reported, uncertainty over what the actors may do has spooked insurance providers to grant completion bonds, an essential step for independent films to obtain financing.

Like the writers, some of the key issues in negotiations with the studios include improved residual payments and addressing concerns over the use of AI. But the guild is also concerned with obtaining higher compensation and an improvement to the guild’s health plan, and the guild also wants to establish guidelines around “self-tapes,” or self-taped auditions that the guild says are “unregulated and out of control” and put a costly burden on actors in the audition process.

The Screen Actors Guild last went on strike back in 2018 for 10 months against the advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty and in 2016 for 11 months, the longest in the guild’s history, against the major video game companies. When both SAG and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) were separate unions back in 2000, the two joined forces and went on strike for a new commercial contract for six months.