SAG-AFTRA Asks Members to Volunteer as Captains for Potential Strike

The actors union sends out a survey to members asking about best times and locations for picket line shifts


With days to go until its labor contract expires, SAG-AFTRA is beginning preparations for a potential actors strike, sending out surveys to its 160,000+ members asking about volunteer availability and most convenient times and locations for possible picket lines.

“SAG-AFTRA may soon call for a strike – a work stoppage, to put pressure on AMPTP companies to give us a fair deal on new TV/Theatrical Contracts,” read the survey sent to members on Thursday and obtained by TheWrap. “By taking this survey, you’re not obligating yourself to help, but it will help us make informed decisions about our members and resources if we ever need to ask for your assistance.”

It is customary for unions that have received authorization from its members to order a strike if labor contract negotiations fall through to begin preparations for such a strike in the week prior to negotiation deadlines, but it is not necessarily a sign that a strike will happen. While the Writers Guild of America began surveying members for strike captain and other volunteer duties in the days before it officially ordered a strike this past May, IATSE made similar preparations leading up to its contract deadline in 2021, though it did eventually strike an eleventh-hour deal that was narrowly ratified by members.

Along with strike captain duties, which would involve overseeing picket duties at different studios or assistant roles overseeing lines at specific gates, SAG-AFTRA’s survey also asked about interest in other volunteer work, such as phone banking members about picket lines or constructing signs.

Given its significantly larger membership size, a SAG-AFTRA strike would make the picket lines already being conducted by the WGA significantly larger. Over the past two months, the WGA has staged picket lines in front of all of the entertainment industry’s backlots and production offices in Los Angeles and New York, and has also coordinated grassroots picket lines to shut down productions that have attempted to continue shooting without writers.

A double strike, something that Hollywood has not seen in 63 years, would effectively shut down those lingering productions and would also lead to actors pulling out of promotional apperances such as film premieres, press junkets, and awards ceremonies like the Emmys, which is currently set to take place on September 18 and would likely be postponed if a strike is called.

SAG-AFTRA members have been pushing for their union to negotiate a deal that curtails abuses surrounding self-taped auditions, sets up a framework for proper consent and compensation regarding AI recreations and data set scraping of performers’ work and likeness, and a new residual structure for streaming shows and films that is based on viewership data that streamers have been reticent to divulge.

In a video sent to members on June 24, guild president Fran Drescher expressed optimism that progress was being made.

“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,” said Drescher, who is president of the union. “We’re standing strong and we’re going to achieve a seminal deal.”

But in the days afterward, an open letter to SAG-AFTRA leaders was signed by over 2,000 members, including top names like Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, urging them to use the strike authorization to secure a deal without compromises on key issues. SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP agreed this past Friday to extend negotiations until midnight on July 12.