Actors union will join writers on strike, shutting down Hollywood

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Striking Writers Guild of America (WGA) members walk the picket line in front of Netflix offices as SAG-AFTRA union announced it had agreed to a ‘last-minute request’ by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for federal mediation, but it refused to again extend its existing labor contract past the 11:59 p.m. Wednesday negotiating deadline, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., July 12, 2023. 
Mike Blake | Reuters

Hollywood actors are officially headed to the picket line.

Unable to reach a deal with producers, members of The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will join up with more than 11,000 already striking film and television writers starting at midnight.

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“We are the victims here,” said Fran Drescher, president of the union, during a press conference Thursday. “We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us.”

“It is disgusting,” she said. “Shame on them.”

The failed negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers means film and television productions featuring actors will immediately halt, essentially shutting down Hollywood. It’ll be the first tandem strike in Hollywood since 1960.

The actors union had already granted one extension to its contract, which was originally set to expire July 1, and said it would not concede another.

Heading into negotiations last month, Hollywood performers were looking to improve wages, working conditions and health and pension benefits, as well as create guardrails for the use of artificial intelligence in future television and film productions.

The Writers Guild of America, which has been on strike since May, is seeking higher compensation and residuals, particularly when it comes to streaming shows, as well as new rules that will require studios to staff television shows with a certain number of writers for a specific period. The guild also is seeking compensation throughout the process of pre-production, production and post-production. Currently, writers are often expected to provide revisions or craft new material without being paid.

The WGA also shares similar concerns over the use of artificial intelligence when it comes to script writing.

SAG-AFTRA said producers have been unwilling to offer its members a fair deal and have worked to delay negotiations.

In remarks before Thursday’s press conference, Drescher called the AMPTP’s response to actors’ proposals “insulting and disrespectful.”

Her comments come as reports have surfaced about tactics studio producers allegedly plan to implement against writers, namely, that producers don’t plan on attempting to negotiate with writers for several months. According to the reports, producers expect writers will run out of money and possibly lose their homes and be forced to come to the bargaining table.

While the AMPTP has denied these reports, studio executives have remained outspoken about what they consider unreasonable contract requests.

“We managed as an industry to negotiate a very good deal with the Directors Guild, that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business,” Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC on Thursday morning, ahead of SAG-AFTRA’s announcement. “We wanted to do the same thing with the writers. And we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of challenges that this business is already facing, that is quite frankly, very disruptive.”

Iger noted that the industry has not completely recovered from the coronavirus pandemic and these strikes come at “the worst time in the world.”

“It will have a very, very damaging effect on the whole business,” he said. “And unfortunately there’s huge collateral damage to the industry, to people who are, you know, support services. I could go on and on. It will affect the economy of different regions, even, because of the sheer size of the business. It’s a shame. It is really a shame.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is a member of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

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