SAG-AFTRA Members Approve Strike Authorization With 97.91% of Vote

Actors guild will begin labor contract talks on June 7 with more leverage

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland SAG-AFTRA

SAG-AFTRA announced on Monday evening that its members have overwhelmingly approved its strike authorization vote, giving the actors guild greater leverage as it begins labor contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on June 7.

Approximately 47% of SAG-AFTRA’s membership participated, with over 63,000 members voting in favor of strike authorization. The results mirror those of the strike authorization vote held by the Writers Guild of America in April, where over 9,200 members voted in favor of the strike authorization for a vote percentage of 97.9%.

This result now means that SAG-AFTRA’s leadership, helmed by President Fran Drescher and National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, have approval from its members to order a strike after the current labor contract with the AMPTP expires on June 30 if the leaders decide that they are not close to reaching a deal.

“The strike authorization votes have been tabulated and the membership joined their elected leadership and negotiating committee in favor of strength and solidarity. I’m proud of all of you who voted as well as those who were vocally supportive, even if unable to vote. Everyone played a part in this achievement,” said Drescher in a statement.

“I could not be more pleased with this response from the membership. This overwhelming yes vote is a clear statement that it’s time for an evolution in this contract. As we enter what may be one of the most consequential negotiations in the union’s history, inflation, dwindling residuals due to streaming, and generative AI all threaten actors’ ability to earn a livelihood if our contracts are not adapted to reflect the new realities. This strike authorization means we enter our negotiations from a position of strength, so that we can deliver the deal our members want and deserve,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

In its own statement, the AMPTP said that it is “approaching these negotiations with the goal of achieving a new agreement that is beneficial to SAG-AFTRA members and the industry overall.”

Unlike the WGA, SAG-AFTRA has not publicly released a full list of its pattern of demands heading into AMPTP negotiations, which will be conducted under a media blackout. However, Drescher did tell TheWrap last month that the guild is looking for significant changes to the contract that reflect the evolving nature of the entertainment industry and its greater emphasis on streaming.

“We all understand that we have entered a streaming age, and that the expiring contracts reflect a different period in entertainment history,” Drescher said. “That in and of itself dictates some imaginative change and restructuring.”

Artificial intelligence is also expected to be a major topic in the SAG-AFTRA talks, as AI is already being used to recreate the voices and likenesses of actors. In an interview this past spring, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told TheWrap that SAG-AFTRA’s leaders believe AI can be beneficial to actors if proper regulations are put in place to avoid the use of actors’ performances and likenesses without proper compensation and consent.

“We definitely recognize that there are real risks to jobs, but past history has shown that resisting technology or pretending it doesn’t exist or hoping things don’t change doesn’t work,” he said. “We need to be ahead of the curve and have a say in how this technology will be used. And in doing so, we can help our members learn how they can benefit from AI.”

While negotiations take place, WGA members will continue their strike, which is entering its sixth week and is expected to continue at least through the next month. SAG-AFTRA has not held a strike on film and television productions since 1980, with the last double strike held by writers and actors taking place in 1960 in a labor stoppage that led to the establishment of residuals for TV reruns.