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Hollywood Screen Actors Strike, Joining Writers and Further Delaying Fall TV Production

Silhouette of picketers hold up SAG and WGA strike signs

The Take

  • SAG-AFTRA, the union representing screen actors, is on strike following five weeks of negotiations with the AMPTP, which represents film and TV production companies and studios.
  • The strike will immediately shut down numerous productions worldwide and stop any promotional work actors are doing for projects.
  • While completed movies and TV shows—like Barbie and Oppenheimer—will release as scheduled, actors will not be filming fall TV staples like Law & Order: SVU and Abbott Elementary.
  • The actors join members of the Writers Guild, who have been on strike since May 2.

At a press conference in Los Angeles this afternoon, the SAG-AFTRA, the labor union representing screen actors, announced its members would go on strike. The action comes after five weeks of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers did not yield a new contract before the expiration date.

“Because the AMPTP remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on key issues essential to protecting the livelihoods of working actors and performers, SAG-AFTRA’s national board unanimously voted to issue a strike order against the studios and streamers,” SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said at a press conference this afternoon.

“You cannot change the business model as much as it has changed and not expect the contract to change too,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said. “We are labor, and we stand tall, and we demand respect and to be honored for our contribution. [Studios] share the wealth because [they] cannot exist without us.”

The strike impacts actors working under the 2020 TV/Theatrical contract for studios and members of the AMPTP. Actors working in interactive entertainment, audiobooks, music, commercials, and other areas are not on strike.

The AMPTP released a statement saying the alliance proposed a substantive effort and noted, “A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life.”

The strike begins at midnight on Friday, July 14, 2023. Actors will join writers from the Writers Guild of America on picket lines, as both unions are officially on strike.

Why are writers and actors striking?

SAG-AFTRA members authorized a strike on June 5, two days before the union began negotiations with the AMPTP. But Crabtree-Ireland explained that SAG-AFTRA is “not a strike-happy union. This is a union that views strikes as a last resort, but we’re not afraid to do them if that’s what it takes to ensure our members receive a fair contract.”

Writers and actors negotiated for similar things, including fair pay and protections against artificial intelligence. “Our members need to receive [compensation] increases that allow them to keep up with the pace of inflation. We believe that our members should not be working in 2023 for less money—in real dollars—than they made in 2020,” Crabtree-Ireland said, referring to the guild’s just-expired contract with the AMPTP. “That’s wrong, that’s unfair, and it’s unacceptable, and so we didn’t reach an agreement [with the AMPTP] on that point.”

SAG-AFTRA noted they don’t want to be on strike and are open to returning to the negotiating table tonight. “[The AMPTP is] well aware of what it takes to make a deal,” Crabtree-Ireland said at the press conference. “Fran and I personally spoke to several of the CEOs of these studios yesterday. They know what it’ll take to make a deal; they have the power in their hands to make a deal and avoid this strike—they chose not to do that.”

Writers and actors striking together hasn’t happened since 1960 when the unions fought for health plans and residual payments from the studios.

“The relationships between the entertainment industry unions have never been tighter, have never been closer,” Crabtree-Ireland said, “and we absolutely are standing in solidarity with them, and they are standing in solidarity with us.”

Will new episodes of your favorite shows still air?

Probably not. Unless writers completed writing episodes before the WGA strike beginning in May and actors finished filming before the SAG-AFTRA strike starting today, new episodes will only be produced once a new contract is agreed upon and the strike is over.

While this may not impact streaming services immediately, you will see a change with cable networks starting this fall. Already, FOX and ABC have schedules relying on reality, news, and unscripted programming.

And you won’t be seeing your favorite actors anymore—unless you check out the picket lines. Interviews, red-carpet appearances, and promotional videos are prohibited during the strike.

So while you may not feel an immediate impact, as the strike continues, you will see fewer scripted programs airing new episodes. And while you may think that this strike has nothing to do with you, Drescher disagrees. “I think that [viewers] have an allegiance to all of us because we bring joy to their lives—we bring entertainment to their lives—and during COVID, they turned to us for everything.” Now, Drescher is turning to you—the viewers—to care and support SAG-AFTRA.

“We are being taken advantage of in a terrible way,” Drescher said. “And if we let this happen to us, dollars for donuts, it’s gonna happen to you and your family, your children, and everybody that you work with, too.”

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