The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the union representing about 160,000 actors in Hollywood, is recommending its board call a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the entity that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon Studios, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. Discovery, among others.
Following the expiration of the Producers-SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical/Streaming Contracts at 11:59 p.m. PT on July 12, the actors’ union alleges that after more than four weeks of bargaining, the studios have been unwilling to negotiate for higher compensation, better benefits and safeguards against the use of artificial intelligence (AI), among other issues.
While AMPTP has issued no press statement on the current labor situation, major studios and content producers have made no secret their desire to reign in operating costs — spearheaded by Disney’s recent decision to cut 7,000 jobs and $5 billion in costs. Public media companies, in fiscal reports, have pointed to a sluggish post-pandemic box office, burgeoning streaming losses and changes in the way people consume entertainment, for re-assessing their operating budgets.
On a July 13 appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (from the annual media mogul retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho) Disney CEO Bob Iger said both the writers and actors unions were being unrealistic in their contract demands.
“It’s very disturbing to me,” Iger told CNBC’s David Faber. “We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID, which is ongoing, it’s not completely back. This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption.”
While Iger agrees that the unions representing writers and actors should negotiate to the benefit of their members, he said the industry recently signed (on June 23) a “fair deal” with the Directors Guild of America that he contends valued their work appropriately. Iger would like to do the same with writers and actors — within fiscal reality.
“There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic,” he said. “And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”
A strike would be the first involving both writers (who went on strike two months ago) and actors in Hollywood since 1960.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief negotiator for the actors, said the studios and streamers have implemented “massive” unilateral changes in the industry’s business model, while at the same time insisting on keeping compensation contracts unchanged.
“That’s not how you treat a valued, respected partner and essential contributor,” Crabtree-Ireland said in a statement.
He contends that the studios’ refusal to engage in the discussions regarding the actors’ key proposals and the “fundamental” disrespect they have shown towards working actors (not headline stars) prompts a strike.
“The studios and streamers have underestimated our members’ resolve, as they are about to fully discover,” said Crabtree-Ireland.
The union will hold a press conference today (July 13), at noon PT at SAG-AFTRA Plaza in Los Angeles, following the conclusion of the National Board vote.