SAG-AFTRA National Board Approves New Contract; Members Begin Voting Tuesday

Striking actors
Spencer Morgan holds a placard as he and other SAG-AFTRA members walk the picket line on the 100th day of their ongoing strike, outside Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A tentative three-year contract between SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood’s studios has been approved by the actors union’s national board of directors, who are encouraging their members to do the same when voting begins Tuesday.

The board approved the tentative agreement on a 86% to 14% vote, officially ending a 118-day strike that began July 14 — two days after the previous contract expired

at 11:59 p.m. on July 12 — and continued until 12:01 a.m. Thursday, union officials announced during a Saturday news conference.

“… we have forged the biggest deal in industry history, which broke pattern, established new revenue streams and passed a historic $1 billion plus dollar deal with the most progressive AI protections ever written,” SAG- AFTRA President Fran Drescher said “I feel pretty confident in saying this is a paradigm shift of seismic proportions! I am so proud of the TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee and so thrilled to have partnered with [chief negotiator] Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. Onward and upwards!”

Likewise, Crabtree-Ireland thanked Drescher for her leadership and expressed relief that an agreement had finally been reached.

“Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe my appreciation of the TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee for their incredible efforts in reaching this tentative agreement,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “Once ratified, this deal will fundamentally reset how our membership is compensated to account for the growth of streaming and, for the first time, institute deep protections against the encroachment of AI technology. At its core, this deal is about our members and making sure they are able to maintain the dignity that comes with a career as an actor and performer.

“This deal is possible because of their solidarity and unwavering commitment throughout this process. The sacrifices made by our members and our union siblings throughout the past 118 days are creating a fairer industry for all moving forward.”

Key components of the agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, include:

—  a 7-percent increase in general wages, effective immediately with future increases in 2024 and 2025; a total package of more than $1 billion in new wages and funding for benefits

— “consent and compensation guardrails” on the use of artificial intelligence, which will require studios to obtain an actor’s informed consent before creating or using a digital replica of a performer — whether they’re an A-list star or a background actor

—  establishment of a streaming participation bonus that will compensate performers in addition to traditional residuals.

— other provisions including improved relocation benefits, regulations on self-taped auditions and increased residuals for stunt performers.

The contract is retroactive and remains in effect through June 30, 2026.

“We are pleased that the National Board has recommended the agreement for ratification by the membership,” an AMPTP spokesperson said. “We are also grateful that the entire industry has enthusiastically returned to work.”

Qualified SAG-AFTRA members, estimated at roughly 160,000, will begin voting on the agreement Tuesday, a process that is expected to continue through the first week of December.

Hollywood production had essentially been at a standstill since May 2, when the Writers Guild of America union went on strike, and SAG-AFTRA performers mostly honored their picket lines. The WGA ended its strike in late September, when negotiators reached a labor agreement with the studios. WGA members ratified the deal in early October.

The shutdown has been estimated by some experts to have cost the local economy billions of dollars, affecting not only actors and writers, but all other aspects of the production industry and small businesses that rely on entertainment workers, such as restaurants and caterers.

“I am grateful that a fair agreement has been reached between SAG- AFTRA and AMPTP after a more than 100-day strike that impacted millions in Los Angeles and throughout the country,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement Wednesday afternoon after the tentative deal was announced. “Those on the line have been the hardest hit during this period and there have been ripple effects throughout our entire city.

“Today’s tentative agreement is going to impact nearly every part of our economy. Now, we must lean in on local production to ensure that our entertainment industry rebounds stronger than ever and our economy is able to get back on its feet.”

The studios had warned that unless a deal was reached within the week it would be impossible for broadcasters to salvage half a season of scripted television.

The 2024 summer movie season was also increasingly in peril, as more and more films were delayed until 2025.

The Producers Guild of America issued a statement congratulating SAG- AFTRA “for their unwavering dedication in reaching an agreement with the studios. We eagerly look forward to collaborating with our fellow writers, actors and director as we collectively work towards revitalizing our industry and returning to work.”

The WGA also congratulated the actors’ union for reaching a deal to address “the challenges the actors were facing.”

“We’re thrilled to see SAG-AFTRA members win a contract that creates new protections for performers and gives them a greater share of the immense value they create,” WGA officials said in a statement.

The Directors Guild of America, which reached a contract deal with the AMPTP earlier this year without striking, issued a statement saying, “Congratulations to SAG-AFTRA on successfully reaching a tentative agreement that addresses the unique needs of their members.

“Directors and their teams look forward to our industry getting back to work and collaborating with actors, writers, craftspeople and crews to create film and television that entertains billions around the world.”

–City News Service