SAG-AFTRA Formally Calls Actors Strike, Slams Studios: ‘Shame on Them!’

“They stand on the wrong side of history,” guild president Fran Drescher says of the AMPTP

Fran Drescher (Getty Images)

Hollywood has officially been shut down as SAG-AFTRA formally announced its first film and television strike since 1980 at a press conference at its Los Angeles headquarters on Thursday.

“From the time negotiations began on June 7, SAG-AFTRA staff and the members of our negotiating committee have worked overtime devoting their evenings, weekends and holidays to achieving a deal that would ensure a sustainable future for the acting profession,” chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said. “But despite our team’s efforts, the AMPTP has remained steadfast in its commitment to devaluing the work of our members.”

The strike will begin late Thursday at midnight.

“The eyes of labor are upon us,” guild president Fran Drescher said. “What is happening to us is happening across all fields of labor. When employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and forget the essential contributors that make the machine run, we have a problem. This is a very seminal hour for us. I went in in earnest, thinking we would be able to avert a strike. The gravity of this moment is not lost on me, our negotiating committee or our national board.”

Drescher continued, passionately condemning the studios.

“It came with great sadness that we came to this crossroads, but we had no choice. We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people we have been in business with are treating us. I cannot believe it how far apart we are on so many things, how they plead poverty while giving millions of dollars to their CEOs. Shame on them! They are on the wrong side of history!”

The announcement came after a meeting of the actors’ guild’s national board, whose members unanimously approved the motion to announce a strike that will see the union’s 160,000 members walk off of all film and television productions as well as any promotional events for those productions such as press junkets, film premieres and awards ceremonies.

Drescher condemned the AMPTP for not making an offer that answers the key concerns of actors, including on consent and compensation for artificial intelligence recreations of performances and on streaming residuals, which the guild wants tied to viewership data that streamers refuse to make public.

“Although we’re all disappointed with the reluctance to cooperate, the solidarity among SAG-AFTRA members has never been stronger,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “Based on the enthusiasm I’m seeing from everyone. I truly believe this union has the unity and the resolve needed to fight for the future of their careers.”

When asked how long they think the strike will last, Drescher replied, “That’s up to them,” adding that they’re willing to come to the table tonight. “They know what it will take to make a deal,” Crabtree-Ireland said.

“Last night we told the AMPTP directly across the table we’re ready willing and able to return to the negotiating table whenever they’re ready to do so,” he said. “Their response to us was that they would be ready to talk whenever we would act in a civilized manner and not be on strike. We told them that it’s not uncivilized for people to go on strike. It’s a moral right. It’s a human right and it’s a legal right of our members to collectively bargain, to organize and to go on strike if needed to defend their rights.”

Crabtree-Ireland continued, “We will be happy to approach them and negotiate with them whenever they’re ready to do so. We were then later informed that it would probably be a while, so we will be here doing what we need to do to defend our members and to ensure we get a fair contract, and we encourage them to come back to the table, because we’re ready to talk whenever they are.”

Crabtree-Ireland said that the promotion of past, current and future work is not allowed during the strike. He clarified that the strike does not affect performers working in interactive entertainment, audiobooks, music, commercials and other contract areas.

When asked how the strike affects Emmy campaigning, Crabtree-Ireland said, the guild “will not allow any form of promotion for television series or streaming series that have been produced under these contracts. My expectation is that it will bring any actor participation in Emmy campaigning to a close.”

SAG-AFTRA announced just after midnight on Thursday that it had ended talks with the AMPTP without a deal, despite the presence of a federal mediator during the last day of negotiations and an extension of the original deadline from June 30 to Wednesday (July 12).

The strike immediately shut down any lingering film and TV productions that were still pressing forward despite the ongoing writers’ strike and will also see actors get pulled from any promotional events including movie premieres, press junkets, fan events like San Diego Comic-Con, and awards ceremonies like the upcoming Emmys, which are supposed to begin preparations after nominees were announced on Wednesday and is now expected to be postponed.

“It’s a terrible thing to have to do, but we were forced into it,” Drescher said.

In its own statement, the AMPTP said it was “deeply disappointed” that SAG-AFTRA walked away without a deal.

“This is the Union’s choice, not ours. In doing so, it has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more. Rather than continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has put us on a course that will deepen the financial hardship for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods,” the statement said.