Actors, studios to resume talks Tuesday; first lady Jill Biden expresses support for SAG-AFTRA

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Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Actors, studios to resume talks; Jill Biden expresses support for SAG
Negotiators for the SAG-AFTRA actors union and Hollywood studios will try again Tuesday to end the crippling strike that began July 14.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Negotiators for the SAG-AFTRA actors union and Hollywood studios will try again Tuesday to end the crippling strike that began July 14, as the sides resume talks that broke off nearly two weeks ago.

"As we mark the 100th day of our strike, we are pleased to confirm the company executives have asked us to return to the table. Official negotiations will resume on Tuesday, October 24th," the union posted Saturday on social media.

"It is clear that the strength and solidarity shown by our members has sent an unmistakable message to the CEOs. As we have repeatedly said, we are ready, willing and able to engage on a moment's notice to meet and to work across the table to achieve a deal that is worthy of your sacrifice. In the coming days, there will likely be a lot of interest and potentially noise surrounding our talks. Do not believe anything you hear until it comes from us."

Meanwhile, first lady Jill Biden expressed support for SAG-AFTRA in a video message.

"Your work makes our country stronger, and gives people courage, community and hope," she said. "I know what you're doing isn't easy, but I know you'll keep fighting because it's who you are. You're dreamers, you're organizers, you're union members and you never give up.

"Joe and I stand with you today, tomorrow and for all the days to come."

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, broke off talks on Oct. 11 following five negotiating sessions spread over two weeks.

"Negotiations between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA have been suspended after SAG-AFTRA presented its most recent proposal ..." AMPTP said in a statement at the time.

Negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood studios will resume in another effort to end the crippling strike that began July 14, the actors union said.

"After meaningful conversations, it is clear that the gap between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA is too great, and conversations are no longer moving us in a productive direction."

Two days after the talks broke off, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher appeared on NBC's Tuesday Show and said the breakdown "really came as a shock to me."

"What does that exactly mean and why would you walk away from the table?" she said. "It's not like we're asking for anything that's so outrageous. It's so wrong. And it's so unfair that they walked out of the meeting, and so disrespectful."

Her comments came the same day a group of Hollywood labor unions called for negotiations to resume "immediately."

"We collectively demand the AMPTP resumes negotiations in good faith immediately, make meaningful moves at the negotiating table with SAG-AFTRA to address performers' specific needs, and make the fair deal they deserve," the unions said in a joint statement.

The statement came from the Writers Guild of America's West and East branches, the Directors Guild of America, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the American Federation of Musicians, the Teamsters and Hollywood Basic Crafts.

"Our members work side-by-side for the same handful of employers, and our unions and guilds collectively stand more united than ever," the unions' statement went on.

"Each day a fair contract addressing actors' unique priorities is delayed is another day working professionals across our industry suffer unnecessarily. At this point, it should be clear to the studios and the AMPTP that more is needed than proposals which merely replicate the terms negotiated with other unions."

A key issue in the snag was a SAG-AFTRA proposal for a 75 cents per subscriber annual charge as part of a revenue sharing plan with the studios, which Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos called a "levy on subscribers" and a "bridge too far."

The actors union demands include general wage increases, protections against the use of actor images through artificial intelligence, boosts in compensation for successful streaming programs and improvements in health and retirement benefits.

The WGA ended its strike against the studios on Sept. 27. Members of the WGA later ratified the agreement to end their strike, which began on May 2.

City News Service contributed to this report.