SAG-AFTRA members to hold strike authorization vote, raising concerns of another work stoppage

Thursday, May 18, 2023
SAG-AFTRA members to hold strike authorization vote
With the writers strike well into its third week, another union that helps fuel the Hollywood industry could be on the verge of another strike.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- With the writers' strike well into its third week, another union that helps fuel the Hollywood industry could be on the verge of another strike.

SAG-AFTRA, which represents more than 160,000 entertainment and media professionals, will ask union members to vote on whether to authorize a strike.

Members - which include journalists, actors, recording artists, news writers, editors and more - can begin voting on Thursday.

"For the first time in a very long time, our member leadership stands in solidarity at the negotiating committee and the National Board levels on moving forward with a strike authorization. We must get all our ducks in a row should the need present itself," SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement Wednesday. "The prospect of a strike is not a first option, but a last resort... Therefore, I implore eligible members to follow the leads of both the negotiating committee and the National Board with an unprecedented show of solidarity and make three a charm with an emphatic 'yes' for a strike authorization vote!"

The strike authorization vote comes ahead of planned negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major Hollywood studios.

SAG-AFTRA's current contract expires on June 30.

SAG-AFTRA says "earning a living as a professional performer has become increasingly difficult, with both inflation and the streaming ecosystem undercutting compensation." In addition, the union also pointed to the "unregulated use" of artificial intelligence and the "industrywide shift to self-tape" as the challenges facing working actors and other union members.

The vote doesn't necessarily mean there will be a strike, but union officials say it can give them "maximum bargaining leverage" during the upcoming round of contract negotiations with the AMPTP, which begin June 7.

"To have the backing of 160,000 members of SAG-AFTRA, so they know they mean business," said Sean McNulty, a contributor for The Ankler. "If there's any doubt in their minds, this kind of really gets rid of that before the negotiations even start."

Getting early strike leverage for union negotiators is something the WGA did and it still didn't prevent a strike.

But with the director's guild contract also set to expire at the end of June, the producers' alliance could be facing enough union muscle to shut down.

"If you add in directors or you add in actors, everything stops," said Alex Kerai, the consumer trends reporter for "We're kind of done at that point. It's game over for Hollywood."

Kerai said the three guilds usually see their contracts expire around the same time, but adds that this year is the perfect storm.

The Writers Guild of America continues is fighting for better pay, streaming residuals, safeguards around AI technology and more.

Variety reports that the WGA's negotiations with the studios appear to be progressing in a collaborative way. But, an official deal has not been reached.

"What they're fighting for is going to set the bar for a lot of things going forward, not just in the next three-year cycle, but you're talking the next 10 to 15 years," said McNulty.