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Possible Strikes Imminent as Writers Guild Walkout Continues

On Monday evening, actors associated with the Hollywood union SAG-AFTRA authorized a potential strike, depending on the outcome of the contract negotiation with major studios, streamers, and production companies by June 30. This decision was supported by a significant proportion — 98% of the 65,000 members who participated in the vote.

SAG-AFTRA represents more than 160,000 members, including screen actors, broadcast journalists, announcers, hosts, and stunt performers. Negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) are scheduled to begin on Wednesday. This comes after the Writers Guild of America (WGA) initiated their strike due to disputes with AMPTP.

If the strike is implemented, it would be focused on television and film productions. News and broadcast work would not be impacted directly. The negotiations center around issues such as increasing base compensation, which actors suggest has been affected by inflation and the advent of streaming platforms, concerns over the uncontrolled use of artificial intelligence, benefit plans, and costs associated with "self-taped auditions" that were previously covered by casting and production.

In response, the AMPTP issued a statement on Monday: “We are approaching these negotiations with the goal of achieving a new agreement that is beneficial to SAG-AFTRA members and the industry overall.”

The industry is in a critical phase with the ongoing strike of 11,500 writers entering its sixth week. Furthermore, the directors guild is reviewing a recently agreed tentative agreement with studios on several issues such as wages, streaming residuals, and artificial intelligence. In the case of an actors' strike, there could be a substantial slowdown in the industry.

The WGA, DGA, and SAG-AFTRA have displayed unity since the onset of the writers' strike on May 2. The prospect of all three guilds going on strike simultaneously was a concern due to the impending expiration of the directors' and actors' contracts.

However, the situation changed on Sunday night when the directors guild announced that they had reached a preliminary agreement with studios. While the specific terms of the agreement haven't been publicly detailed, they are expected to be presented to the DGA board on Tuesday for approval and then to the membership for ratification.

Representatives for the writers guild and the actors guild acknowledged the directors' group for reaching a tentative agreement, but didn't comment on the specifics. The writers guild maintained its bargaining positions.

Some members of the writers guild voiced concerns, referencing a past situation in 2007-2008 when the directors negotiated their own contract during the writers' strike.

The WGA negotiating committee released a statement last week cautioning about a potential strategy by the studios to create divisions between the guilds.

Each union has distinct priorities. The directors' key areas of focus were international streaming residuals, wages, safety measures, diversity and inclusion, and adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

The writers guild is focusing on better pay, improved residuals, and minimum staffing requirements. A common area of concern is the use of artificial intelligence. The directors guild announced that they have reached an agreement that clarifies that AI is not a person and that generative AI cannot replace the tasks performed by their members.

The chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, Du

ncan Crabtree-Ireland, stated that the requirements of the guild's actor members are distinct. Hollywood actors have not conducted a strike against AMPTP since 1980, which lasted for 95 days and was concerning payment for television and VHS tapes.

Crabtree-Ireland stated on Sunday, “Our bargaining strategy has never relied upon nor been dependent on the outcome or status of any other union’s negotiations, nor do we subscribe to the philosophy that the terms of deals made with other unions bind us.” On Monday, he further stated that the vote was an indication of the need for changes in the contract.

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