SAG-AFTRA members approve strike authorization by overwhelming margin

Tribune Content Agency

LOS ANGELES — Members of SAG-AFTRA have voted to strike if they can’t reach a deal with studios over a new contract by June 30, underscoring widening labor tensions across Hollywood.

The vote was overwhelmingly approved by a 98% margin, the union said Monday night.

The endorsement gives the union more leverage in negotiations with studios that begin Wednesday on behalf of its 160,000 performers and broadcasters.

It comes as writers enter their sixth week of a strike that has already destabilized the film and TV industry. An actors’ strike could further disrupt production activity.

Although a walkout is not guaranteed, the union’s decision to seek a strike authorization even before negotiations have begun is a sign of its resolve to press for improved pay and conditions.

“Without transformative change in the TV/Theatrical contracts, it will soon be unsustainable to pursue a career working under these conditions,” SAG-AFTRA said on its website.

Many members of the union have been marching alongside writers, who have been on strike since May 2.

Like writers, actors have argued that their compensation has been undercut by inflation and the shift to streaming, which pays less in residuals (fees for re-aired shows) than traditional broadcast models.

Other contentious issues include artificial intelligence and the lack of regulations surrounding how actors’ voices and images are used.

Additionally, the union wants to bolster contributions to SAG-AFTRA’s health and pension plans and curb the practice of self-taped auditions, a trend that accelerated during the pandemic.

Studios and casting directors increasingly have required actors to submit video of themselves auditioning for roles, forcing them to take on audition costs that have typically been the responsibility of productions, the union has said.

The last time actors went on strike was in 2000 in a dispute over their commercials contract.

The previous actors’ strike against the major film and TV studios was in 1980.