SAG-AFTRA Preps Picket Signs for Potential Strike: ‘We’re Ready’

The preemptive move comes days before the deadline for leadership to reach a deal on a new labor contract with Hollywood studios

SAG-AFTRA Strike Signs
SAG-AFTRA members prepare picket line signs for a potential strike (Credit: Twitter/SAG-AFTRA)

Members of SAG-AFTRA volunteered their time this weekend to prepare picket signs in case their leadership is unable to reach a deal on a new labor contract with Hollywood studios and orders a strike Wednesday night.

On its Twitter page, SAG-AFTRA showed dozens of members assembling signs at union headquarters, writing in its caption Friday, “If a strike becomes necessary, we’re ready.”

On the weekend prior to the expiration date of its contract this past April, members of the Writers Guild of America went through the same sign construction process as the final hours of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers ticked away. After the two sides were unable to resolve multiple sticking points, the WGA called its first strike since 2007 on May 1. Writers have been on the lines ever since.

Conversely, the below-the-line workers union IATSE had its own picket sign building events just before its contract deadline in fall 2021, only for the union and AMPTP to reach an 11th hour deal that was narrowly ratified by its members.

It remains to be seen which of these two outcomes SAG-AFTRA will take, as both it and AMPTP are under a customary media blackout during negotiations, which were extended from their initial June 30 deadline to July 12. On June 24, the guild sent out a video from president Fran Drescher and national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland expressing optimism about the progress of talks.

“I just want to assure you that we are having an extremely productive negotiations that are laser-focused on all of the crucial issues you told us are most important to you,” Drescher said. “And we’re standing strong and we’re going to achieve a seminal deal.”

But days later, a letter that has since been signed by over 2,000 SAG-AFTRA members, including A-listers like Meryl Streep and Amy Poehler, urged the guild’s negotiating committee not to settle for “a less than transformative deal.”

“We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories,” the letter read. “We want you to know that we would rather go on strike than compromise on these fundamental points, and we believe that, if we settle for a less than transformative deal, the future of our union and our craft will be undermined, and SAG-AFTRA will enter the next negotiation with drastically reduced leverage.”

An individual with knowledge of the talks told TheWrap that while progress has been made between both sides on several fronts, some key sticking points remain, such as a new residual structure for streaming. Both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have pushed for streaming residuals to be tied to viewership data, which streamers like Netflix have kept tightly under wraps.

Last month, members of the Directors Guild of America ratified a contract that ensured significant increases in residual payments with a significant surge in foreign residuals. But the DGA’s contract did not include any gains on viewership-based residuals. Both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have said that they will not be beholden to any terms the DGA agreed to in their own negotiations.

An actors strike would mark the first time since 1960 that two Hollywood guilds have been on strike simultaneously and would shut down all remaining productions still filming in spite of the WGA strike. Actors would also withhold their appearance at marketing events, film premieres and awards ceremonies such as the Emmys, which are supposed to begin preparation ahead of a Sept. 18 telecast later this month.