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SAG-AFTRA members authorize strike: nearly 98 percent vote for work stoppage


Members of Hollywood’s largest labor union have given the green light to their negotiators to call a strike if deemed necessary in upcoming labor negotiations.

Nearly 98 percent of SAG-AFTRA artists’ union members voted to go on strike in a referendum that lasted just over two weeks and ended Monday night. (SAG-AFTRA has not released the percentage voted against the authorization.) The “yes” vote does not lead to a strike, but allows the union’s top negotiators to potentially declare a work stoppage once their TV/theatrical contracts expire on June 30, if negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers wavering.

Sixty-five thousand eligible members voted, for a turnout of nearly 48 percent, which is relatively high for the sprawling union. (By comparison, the 2020 TV/theatrical contract ratification voter turnout was just over 27 percent.)

The high “yes” vote is nearly identical to that obtained by the Writers Guild of America during its early round of negotiations with the AMPTP in April (the WGA obtained a strike approval rate of 97.85 percent, compared to SAG-AFTRA’s 97.91 percent) , before the WGA indeed went on strike on May 2.

“The strike authorization votes have been tabulated and members have joined their elected leadership and negotiating committee in favor of strength and solidarity. I’m proud of all of you who voted and also those who gave vocal support even though they couldn’t vote. Everyone played a part in this achievement,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement. “Together we are closing elbows and in unity we are building a new contract that honors our contributions in this remarkable industry, reflects the new digital and streaming business model and brings ALL of our concerns for protection and benefits to the present day! Bravo SAG-AFTRA, we are doing everything we can to win it.”

The AMPTP said in their own statement Monday night: “We are approaching these negotiations with the goal of reaching a new agreement that will be beneficial to SAG-AFTRA members and the industry at large.”

During the voting period, SAG-AFTRA leaders strongly encouraged members to vote “yes” as a way to improve the union’s bargaining position during a condensed round of talks with studios and streamers this year. SAG-AFTRA negotiations begin on June 7, just over three weeks before TV/theatrical contracts expire. “Unfortunately this year is a bit of an anomaly. We’re starting later, we don’t have a big window to negotiate,” union president Fran Drescher told members in a statement. video encouraging them to approve a strike by the end of May. The idea was to “go in prepared,” she said. “Because it is better to have and not need than to need and not have.”

The union’s national board unanimously agreed to call a vote on May 17 to approve the strike in a great show of unity from the often unruly member leaders. “For the first time in a very long time, our member leadership stands in solidarity at the level of the negotiating committee and the National Council,” Drescher acknowledged at the time.

During negotiations in June, SAG-AFTRA leaders are expected to try to codify protections against generative AI into the contract and improve member remnants and minimum rates in a streaming-dominated era. They are also seeking to bolster the union’s controversial health plan alongside the retirement plan and place more restrictions on self-recorded auditions, which rose in popularity during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his own statement on Monday, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director of SAG-AFTRA, specifically named “inflation, declining residuals due to streaming and generative AI” as threats to union members in 2023. “This strike authorization means we can continue our negotiations starting from a position of strength so we can deliver the deal our members want and deserve,” said Crabtree-Ireland.

Crabtree-Ireland is leading negotiations for the union, while AMPTP President Carol Lombardini will lead talks for the AMPTP.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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