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Actors to join writers on the picket lines as SAG-AFTRA declares strike

Picket lines will begin on Friday morning. The Writers Guild of America has been on strike since May 2.
/ Source: Variety

SAG-AFTRA announced Thursday that it is on strike against the film and TV companies, marking only the second time in Hollywood history that actors have joined writers on the picket lines.

The SAG-AFTRA national board held its meeting on Thursday morning and voted unanimously to approve a strike recommendation forwarded by the negotiating committee, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director and chief negotiator of SAG-AFTRA, said during a press conference. The strike starts at midnight on Thursday, and picket lines will begin on Friday morning.

“Union members should withhold their labor until a fair contract can be achieved,” he told the room. “They have left us with no alternative.”

The union’s contract expired at midnight Wednesday, after a month of negotiations resulted in little progress on a host of issues. SAG-AFTRA has emphasized the role of artificial intelligence and the transition to streaming in explaining the need for a work stoppage.

All production under the SAG-AFTRA TV and film contract will immediately halt, bringing projects to a standstill both in the U.S. and around the globe. The strike is the first under the performers’ film and TV contract since 1980.

The only previous “double strike” — involving both actors and writers — came in 1960, when the Screen Actors Guild was led by Ronald Reagan. In that strike, both the writers and actors were wrestling with compensation issues arising from the dawn of television. Together, they won residuals for TV reruns and for broadcast of films on TV, and established the first pension and welfare plan.

This time around, both unions are battling the rise of streaming TV, which they say has suppressed wages and made it difficult for middle-class creators to sustain a career.

Both unions have also taken aim at AI, which they fear studios will use to further devalue their work and perhaps replace them altogether.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, said it was “disappointed” that SAG-AFTRA had walked away from the table, and rejected an agreement that provided significant wage increases and protections against AI.

The streamers have refused a key demand of both unions, however: to share streaming viewership data and pay creators more for high-performing shows.