After failed negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents major television and film production companies in the United States, the US actors’ union Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) joined the writers from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) on strike, paralyzing the American audiovisual industry.
This strike from the unions, which are seeking better pay, benefits, and working conditions for their members, could have a significant impact on Hollywood production. If it persists over time, actors and writers would be prohibited from working on new projects, which could delay or cancel films and television shows. This action would not only affect the production of projects for film and television, but also streaming platforms.
A major development in the Hollywood labor landscape, this is the first major strike in the industry since 2007. Moreover, it is the first time in over six decades that both the actors and writers’ unions have taken simultaneous strike action. Therefore, all aspects of production, including filming, editing, and post-production will be affected.
● FORMAL RULES FOR THE STRIKE
In a memo to its more than 160.000 members, SAG-AFTRA outlined formal rules for the strike. From now on, all SAG-AFTRA members are forbidden from all principal on-camera work for film and television productions produced by Hollywood studios. This includes singing, dancing, stunt work, puppetry, and off-camera work such as voiceovers and narration, as well as background and stand-in work, and any promotional work for a struck film or television production, among other activities.
At the same time, this set of rules may affect actors’ appearances at events such as the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con, which begins on July 20 and traditionally has a massive Hollywood presence. If the strike lasts even longer than that, it could also affect the Emmy Awards, which are scheduled for September 18, as well as other events such as the Venice and Telluride film festivals. The full list of rules can be read here.
● IMMEDIATE EFFECT
The strike has already had some impact on Hollywood. The red carpet premiere of the film "Oppenheimer" was canceled, and several actors have said that they will not participate in interviews or other promotional events. “We talked about it,” the actor Matt Damon told Variety on the carpet. “If it is called now, everyone’s going to walk obviously in solidarity. Once the strike is officially called, we are walking. That is why we moved this red carpet up, because we know the second it is called, we are going home,” he said before actually walking away.
● SUPPORT FROM THE PRODUCERS
The Producers Guild of America said it stands “in solidarity” with SAG-AFTRA. “The Producers Guild of America stands with SAG-AFTRA as its members make the difficult decision to strike against the studios, companies, and streamers that make up the AMPTP. As the second major union to take this bold step, our industry stands at a pivotal moment in time. The combined actions of SAG-AFTRA and the ongoing writers’ strike signify a monumental sacrifice by actors and writers, one that is aimed at driving meaningful change within our industry,” the PGA said in a statement.
“We believe that fair compensation and essential benefits, including access to health care–are a critical concern and the inherent right of every individual working in this industry. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues,” the statement concluded.
● HOW MANY MEMBERS DOES SAG-AFTRA HAVE?
In 2012, SAG, established in 1933, and AFTRA, founded in 1937, merged to amplify their bargaining power with studio executives and reflect the changing industry. By 2013, the joint union had close to 169.000 members. After a sharp drop in 2014, membership numbers continuously rose every year. In April 2022, according to the union's financial report, SAG-AFTRA boasted a historic high of 171.157 regular members across several industries.
Overall, members contributed close to US$1 billion in regular membership dues as well as agency fees by around 5.000 financial core non-members, which only pay "that portion of union dues that go directly toward covering the costs of collective bargaining, contract enforcement and contract administration" but not any fees connected to political campaigning and lobbying, Statista said in its latest report.