Collective Bargaining 2023: SAG-AFTRA, Join WGA, on Strike

SAG-AFTRA Goes on Strike. Graphic made by Mason Malloy.

What Caused the Strike

After months of negotiations and a short extension on the previous contract, SAG-AFTRA leadership announced that the latest contract offer from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is not up to par.

The 160,000 member Union voted to strike back in early May. Fran Drescher, the SAG-AFTRA president and board called for a strike after the breakdown.

“What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor, when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority, and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run.”, exclaimed President Drescher.

Disputes over pay, streaming residuals, and artificial intelligence are at the heart of the situation. Television seasons began to shrink with the move towards streaming, reducing the overall pay of the actors. In the past, studio executives argued that actors and writers should not receive any residuals from streaming.

The AI proposal from AMPTP was to scan background actors once for a single payday and then use their likeness forever without any residuals. This would effectively eliminate the need for background actors. 

What Does It Mean?

Members of SAG-AFTRA will cease all work for studios on July 14th. The members cannot engage with film or television productions, nor can they take part in promotional work for projects. The cast of Oppenheimer left the London premiere before the screening began in solidarity SAG-AFTRA strike decision.

Numerous movie studios, including Sony Pictures, HBO, Universal Pictures, and Disney, have scaled back plans for San Diego Comic-Con as actors will not be available to attend and work. 

Response from the Industry

Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, said both writers’ and actors’ demands were “not realistic,” continuing to say they are adding more challenges to face. An anonymous studio executive said, “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”

The Effects

Movie and television productions will shut down. The cost of the writers’ strike is substantial with it costing over 30 million dollars a day. The actors’ strike will increase this cost as productions that were past the main writing process will also cease.