The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television (SAG-AFTRA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) announced during the weekend that strike negotiations would resume on Tuesday following nearly two weeks of suspended negotiations because of multiple disagreements between both parties.
The SAG-AFTRA strike, which started on July 14th and has currently lasted 101 days, has been at a standstill with the AMPTP for months. 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.
A new agreement with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) last month, 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 as well as a 2% streaming revenue-sharing proposal that would give those funds to SAG-AFTRA members in the production. In addition, the union wanted a set fee per subscriber and larger minimum wage increases.
SAG-AFTRA soon ended negotiations, with talks subsequently breaking down.
“Negotiations between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA have been suspended after SAG-AFTRA presented its most recent proposal on October 11,” said the AMPTP in a statement on October 13th. “After meaningful conversations, it is clear that the gap between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA is too great, and conversations are no longer moving us in a productive direction.
“SAG-AFTRA’s current offer included what it characterized as a viewership bonus that, by itself, would cost more than $800 million per year – which would create an untenable economic burden. SAG-AFTRA presented few, if any, moves on the numerous remaining open items.
“Member company executives and AMPTP representatives met with SAG-AFTRA for five days over the past eight workdays. We hope that SAG-AFTRA will reconsider and return to productive negotiations soon.”
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher countered the studios announcement by saying that the AMPTP had only sporadically negotiated during the time and had done little besides offering or rejecting deals.
“We only met with them a couple of times, Monday, half a day Wednesday, half a day Friday. That was what they were available for,” added Drescher. “Then this past week, it was Monday and a half a day on Wednesday. And then, ‘Bye-bye.’ I’ve never really met people that actually don’t understand what negotiations mean. Why are you walking away from the table?”
Actors strikes moves past 100 days mark
For the past few weeks, the strike has remained in place without any new negotiations set up. This has been due in large part because of how far apart both sides still are on an agreement, with both the studios and actors firmly entrenched in their demands and needs for their respective members.
“Both sides have a lot to lose here,” said Theresa Stevenson, an arbitrator in Michigan who has helped settled union disputes and strikes in the past. “That’s why it has been following the same trajectory of the WGA strike in terms of being drawn out. For the studios, yeah, they have lost $6 billion and the strike has caused tens of thousands of people to lose their jobs, but they are thinking long-term on this. Sacrifice $6 billion now for projected revenues in the years to come. Same with [SAG-AFTRA]. The majority of actors are suffering right now, but it’s either suffer for a bit now, or roll into less money in the years ahead.
“Neither side wants to budge from that future, and that’s why negotiations broke off.”
However, with both the studios and actors union both wanting an end to the strike soon, the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA agreed during the weekend to resume talks on Tuesday. The meeting will be held at SAG-AFTRA headquarters in Los Angeles, with some studio executives to attend in person along with the usual reps from both sides.
As we go back into negotiations this week, we're making sure the AMPTP knows we're vigilant, unstoppable and #SagAftraStrong in solidarity! Come out to the picket lines or an event near you to be part of the movement: https://t.co/EE6qPXDi3T. 🔥✊ #SagAftraStrike pic.twitter.com/SwqJ2CCkPM
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) October 23, 2023
For the studios, mounting losses and weaker streaming numbers have largely forced their hand to return to the table after several weeks. For SAG-AFTRA, the worsening financial situation for the majority of members is bringing them back. Many top-earning actors, such as George Clooney, proposed last week that the dues cap for members be removed to allow more more money to go into the union. This was proposed largely because of how SAG-AFTRA funds have dwindled significantly since the start of the strike.
Pressure from Los Angeles and the state of California have also been outside influences in trying to get the strike settled. The state economy alone has lost over $5 billion so far this year because of the strikes, with lawmakers such as Governor Gavin Newsom repeatedly trying to get more involved to help end them as soon as possible.
“With Newsom and anyone with political bend, they want the attention with it and be known as the person who helped end the strike,” added Stevenson. “I heard that Newsom is looking to run for President, and helping end a major strike always looks good during a run for office. Here in Michigan where strikes happen often, not being involved in a strike agreement works against you. Union heavy California? Wins you a lot of brownie points.
“Overall, both sides need to compromise instead of trying to wait each other out at this point. The studios need to give some revenue from streaming to the actors. But the actors also can’t squeeze the studios for extra money either and need to realize, to have long-term jobs, they need to keep the studios alive. It’s more complicated than that, naturally, but on the surface level a compromise is needed, pure and simple.”
Talks between the actors union and the studios are expected to restart on Tuesday.
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