The 2023 Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television (SAG-AFTRA) strike ended at Midnight on Thursday following both the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reaching a new agreement.
The SAG-AFTRA strike, which started on July 14th, lasted nearly four months over a total of 118 days. Negotiations over better residual fees for streaming service programs, overall better pay, and strict regulation on the use of artificial intelligence have been slow to progress, mirroring the first several months of the largely concurrent WGA strike, had been largely ongoing since early October.
A new agreement with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) earlier this year, which ended the 146-day long WGA strike, had brought new hope for a quick end to the actors strike, with many experts saying that it could only take a week or so to settle. Talks officially began again on October 6th. However, while things looked promising at first, talks took a turn on October 11th when the actors union presented their latest proposal. Their new proposal included huge viewership bonuses for actors that would cost studios over $800 million a year, a 2% streaming revenue-sharing proposal, a $1 set fee per subscriber and larger minimum wage increases.
The studios walked away, leaving the union fuming. After numerous inter-union proposals were shot down, talks between the sides restarted soon after because of pressure from actors within the union. However, studios soon made it clear that an agreement needed to be made in the next week to salvage what remained of the fall schedule and all partially completed productions. On Saturday, the AMPTP gave their “last, best, and final” offer to the actors guild and made it clear that no more concessions were to be made. SAG-AFTRA leaders went into discussions, taking the rest off the weekend off to look after their final agreement.
Meanwhile, the rest of the union continued to put pressure on the studios. This included many top actors contacting studios, and picketers keeping up lines, and planning to continue all week, minus the Veterans Day holiday on Friday. On Monday, SAG-AFTRA turned the latest deal but did agree to talk with the AMPTP some more to avoid the strike. These talks proved fruitful, leading to an announcement late on Wednesday that a deal had been reached.
Studios, union reach new deal
Both the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA praised the new deal on Wednesday and Thursday, with the strike tentatively ending at midnight on Thursday, with productions already beginning again across the industry only hours after the strike officially ended. The terms of the deal were not fully disclosed on Thursday, with SAG-AFTRA saying that more details on the deal on Friday because of the SAG-AFTRA Board still needing to review the deal. In addition, the deal is only tentative until union members vote on the new deal later this month.
“We did it!!!!,” exclaimed SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher in an Instagram post on Thursday. “The Billion+ $ Deal! 3X the last contract! New ground was broke everywhere! Ty sag aftra members for hanging in and holding out for this historic deal! Ty neg comm, strike captains, staff, Duncan & Ray, our lawyers, the IA team , family and friends. Our sister unions for their unrelenting support! And the amptp for hearing us and meeting this moment.”
In a tweet, SAG-AFTRA simply added that “THE #SagAftraStrike IS OVER.”
THE #SagAftraStrike IS OVER.
🧵 Thread below. pic.twitter.com/KDTl9uKBRt
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) November 9, 2023
The union was more elaborate in their official statement, going into what was done with some of the major issues of the strike.
“In a contract valued at over one billion dollars, we have achieved a deal of extraordinary scope that includes “above-pattern” minimum compensation increases, unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI, and for the first time establishes a streaming participation bonus,” continued SAG-AFTRA. “Our Pension & Health caps have been substantially raised, which will bring much needed value to our plans. In addition, the deal includes numerous improvements for multiple categories including outsize compensation increases for background performers, and critical contract provisions protecting diverse communities.
“We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers. Many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work. Full details of the agreement will not be provided until the tentative agreement is reviewed by the SAG-AFTRA National Board.”
A new tentative deal for actors
Likewise, the AMPTP also sent out a press release with a basic overview of what the deal entails.
“Today’s tentative agreement represents a new paradigm,” said the studio group. “It gives SAG-AFTRA the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union, including the largest increase in minimum wages in the last forty years; a brand new residual for streaming programs; extensive consent and compensation protections in the use of artificial intelligence; and sizable contract increases on items across the board. The AMPTP is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement and looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories.”
Despite both sides praising the deal, union experts told the Globe on Thursday that the deal likely had both sides compromise on many key factors, as both press releases, as well as statements from industry executives and actors, sounded alike.
“The more boiler plate a press release sounds, the more pissed off both sides were,” said Theresa Stevenson, an arbitrator in Michigan who has helped settled union disputes and strikes in the past. “Whenever these dueling releases come out, always pay attention to what each side says. If both sides mention an issue, expect a negotiated to to hell point. If one side mentions something and the other doesn’t, that means that the side that mentioned it got more of what they wanted. I mean, look at how much of the wording is the same between to two sides.
“Details aren’t out yet, but in a strike this intense, which for SAG-AFTRA was their longest strike ever, every point “won” usually carries a bunch of asterisks next to it. There is going to be caveats for everything. The car industry and schools do this all the time. You know, teachers union says that they won big with raises for teachers, but then they don’t mention that a bunch of younger teachers will be let go to offset it. Health insurance caps go up, but in turn the company may reduce 401k matching by a percentage point. We don’t know what happened here yet, but you can be sure that there are significant trade offs.
“The big thing is that it is tentatively over now, and people can go back to work. For LA, which saw a $6.5 billion economic loss this year due to both strikes, recovery starts now. A lot of below the line shops and even places like restaurants and hotels that didn’t close will now be on the long road to recovery. LA has rebounded from these strikes before, but because of the state of the industry right now, it will likely take longer that previous strike years.”
SAG-AFTRA members are to vote on the new agreement in the coming weeks.
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