LOS ANGELES — Before its contract negotiations with Hollywood studios have even begun, the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union will hold a strike-authorization vote over the next two weeks, potentially setting the stage for performers to join already-striking writers on picket lines and further halting entertainment production.
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement issued late Wednesday that the union hopes to avoid a walkout, but it wants to be prepared — and have the leverage at the bargaining table.
“For the first time in a very long time, our member leadership stands in solidarity at the negotiating committee and the National Board levels on moving forward with a strike authorization,” Drescher said. “We must get all our ducks in a row should the need present itself. The prospect of a strike is not a first option, but a last resort. As my dad always says, ‘Better to have and not need than to need and not have!’ Therefore, I implore eligible members to follow the leads of both the negotiating committee and the National Board with an unprecedented show of solidarity and make three a charm with an emphatic yes for a strike-authorization vote.”
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The union, representing more than 160,000 entertainment and media professionals, is scheduled to begin contract negotiations June 7 with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Hollywood studios.
According to SAG-AFTRA, strike-authorization ballots will be sent to members beginning Thursday, with voting closing at 5 p.m. June 5. The current SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical Agreement expires at midnight June 30.
An authorization vote does not necessarily mean a strike will occur. It only gives union leaders the power to call a strike if labor talks break down. Such votes are a common tactic by unions in labor talks to put additional pressure on employers to reach a deal.
SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said the strike authorization sends an important message.
“A yes vote gives the National Board the power to call a strike if the AMPTP does not negotiate fairly in our upcoming bargaining,” Crabtree-Ireland said in a statement. “This will be a seminal negotiation that will determine the future of what it means to be a working performer. We must be ready to fight to secure a meaningful deal for our members.”
The AMPTP declined to comment on the SAG-AFTRA move.
AMPTP is already in the midst of labor negotiations with the Directors Guild of America. The Writers Guild of America has been on strike since May 2, and there’s been no update on whether that union has even resumed bargaining sessions with the studios.
The unions have all been expressing many of the same core issues, particularly around residual compensation for streaming services, and over concerns about the use of artificial intelligence in future productions.