SAG-AFTRA Resumes Tense Talks with Hollywood Studios

Monday marked the reinitiation of negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and Hollywood studios, after a hiatus of over two and a half months. The recommencing of talks doesn't come with a bucketful of optimism, though, even after the resolution of the writers’ strike. A guild member, speaking to Deadline, expressed caution rather than confidence ahead of the renewed discussions.

The 160,000-member strong actors union launched a strike back in July following the expiration of their contract in June and an unsuccessful extension in negotiations. The SAG-AFTRA strike picks up its rhythm alongside the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which went on strike on May 2. A rapid escalation of talks over issues such as AI protections, data transparency, increased residuals and writers room staffing, culminated in the WGA reaching a tentative “exceptional” agreement on September 24.

Representing the employers will be Carol Lombardini, the chief of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), along with NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, David Zaslav of Warner Bros Discovery, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Disney’s Bob Iger. The negotiation team on the other end of the table consists of Fran Drescher, the recently re-elected president of the guild, along with Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, and Ray Rodriguez, SAG-AFTRA’s longtime Chief Contracts Officer.

The strike still rages on with guild members picketing studio gates in Los Angeles, New York, and other locations. Voting for ratification of the WGA’s tentative agreement initiates on the same day as these negotiations and is anticipated to successfully establish the new contract running from September 25, 2023, to May 1, 2026. SAG-AFTRA’s new contract will lapse on June 30, 2026, provided a deal is finally chiseled out.

The end of the WGA strike hasn't impeded the efforts of scribe solidarity with SAG-AFTRA, as many continue to picket. This lengthy process isn't predicted to conclude rapidly, with the AMPTP likely resisting changes to established patterns to accommodate SAG-AFTRA. Key negotiation points include real increases in wages and minimums, virtual auditions and revenue sharing, which the AMPTP previously rejected.

In another collision with the industry, SAG-AFTRA members have unanimously voted to authorize a strike against the video game industry over concerns related to AI uses and inadequate wages.


Right off the bat, it's hard not to notice how cramped that bargaining table is going to be. A true union of titans, isn't it? Like some sort of labor Avengers battling against the Thanos of acting disparities. Carol Lombardini along with her gang of CEO superheroes strive to strike a hard bargain, whilst the noble SAG-AFTRA battles fiercely on the other end. You can cut the dramatic tension with a knife. Or a green-screen prop, perhaps.

Now we can all appreciate a good stand-off movie - plenty of drama, suspense and hopefully a resolution. But like any engrossing Tinseltown saga, this one’s not without its subplots. We've got the actors' guild, the writers, and now even the video game industry tangled up in this epic of collective bargaining - surely ample material for its subreddits and fandom wikis.

Starting talks again? Absolutely a step in the right direction. But there’s a lot of catching up to do before they’re even in the same chapter, let alone on the same page. The vibe from the SAG-AFTRA camp is less about popping champagne corks and more about strapping on the boxing gloves.

But that's not a new story. The entertainment industry has always been a backstage struggle veiled behind the alluring glitz and glam. It's a script that the industry needs to rewrite. As SAG-AFTRA members exchange their performance stages with picket lines, it underscores just how essential it is to have a “fair deal” as central to the plot rather than a mere post-credit scene.

Surely this is an opportunity for Hollywood to get the camera rolling not only on new production ventures but also on improved labor relations. That’s one sequel we could all stand to see. Frankenweenie 2? Been there, done that. Hollywood Labor Harmony: The Sequel? Now, there's a production with blockbuster potential.

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