SAG-AFTRA Strikes: What You Need to Know
What caused the SAG and AFTRA strikes, and what properties have been delayed
Photo by Elizabeth Wagmeister
SAG-AFTRA is an American labour union that entails film and TV actors, singers, narrators, models, journalists and other similar performers. The term SAG-AFTRA is defined by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; which formed a cohesive partnership in 2012.
The partnership of SAG and AFTRA has now entered its 3rd historic strike following the 1st in 2016 and the 2nd in 2018 in response to the global advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty cancelling their contract with the union stating that it would no longer be honouring its agreement as described in Zornosa’s 2023 article.
The strike has involved a varied array of some of the biggest names in Hollywood from actors to directors. Most creatives have expressed their support for the strikers, as described by Florence Pugh in the last few weeks, in Strunck’s article which can be seen in the comment below:
“It’s been a really, really tense few days for a lot of people, not just actors, but everybody in the industry who is going to be affected by this decision”.
What has led to the strike:
What exactly caused the strikes can be identified within an evolving and developing presence of A.I. in the creative industry. As A.I. has become more prevalent in how films and TV shows are produced the importance of certain roles has been called into question.
Alongside this, another challenge faced by creatives is primarily issues like a lack of residuals which is compensation for actor’s work being used on streaming platforms after initial theatrical release, which has decreased considerably in the last few years.
As demanded in the SAG-AFTRA Summary Agreement, creatives and performers want a 13% increase from $8,000 to $9,500 for reruns of half-hour shows and $11,000 to $12,500 for reruns of an hour or longer shows. Creatives desire a higher rate of compensation for the legacy of their work.
These demands are discussed in more detail below
The Union’s demands:
The union as described in the Summary Agreement is demanding an increase on these conditions-
Minimum wages increasing by 7% on November 9, 2023
Compensation when A.I. is involved in some capacity in relation to an actors performance or a films production
A success payment shall be paid if the viewing time of high-budget streaming content in the first 90 days of each exhibition year is equivalent to the production being watched by 20% or more of the domestic subscribers to the digital platforms etc. Netflix or Disney+.
As detailed above, residuals for reruns of certain content shall be increased from 8,000 to 9,500 and from 11,000 to 12,500. Complying with the demanded increase in compensation by the strikers.
And finally, an increase to the contribution to pension schemes for the members of the union, the contribution for half-hour TV or new media motion pictures increases from $15,000 to $25,000. And the contribution of one-hour TV or new media motion pictures increases from $24,500 to $35,000. Both terms come into effect the first Sunday after a year of when the agreement is implemented.
These points can be seen in the graph below:
The growth of the union has been steady in the last few years, with an average increase of 2,000 members per year with the highest volume of members being recorded in 2022. Emphasising that as time has gone on the union requires more support to sustain its members and ensure that the level of work the studios and audiences desire can be met. From 2022 the volume of the union is estimated to be 171,157 members.
As evident in the chart below:
As reiterated on the SAG-AFTRA’s official website the key issues of negotiation that are driving the strikes which were discussed in meetings the union undertook with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) which is the face of well-known studios like Paramount, Netflix and Walt Disney Studios:
· Performers require minimum wage to survive with inflation rates.
· Performers need the defence of their image and performances to prevent human replacements by artificial intelligence technology.
· Performers need suitable compensation to reflect the value they bring to the streamers and audiences who profit from their labour.
What properties have been delayed:
The properties that have been delayed as described in Stewart’s article ‘Nobody wins in the Hollywood strikes, including billion-dollar studios’ include titles like-
- The highly anticipated sequel Gladiator 2
- The sequel to the hit comedy comic book series, Deadpool 3
- The sequel to last year's blockbuster and hit, Dune 2
- The sequels to the decades-spanning cult sci fi series, Avatar 2 & 3
- And the beloved series about a beloved bear’s latest entry, Paddington in Peru
- The cult sci-fi horror show known for its flawless nostalgia, Netflix's Stranger Things
The first studio that has agreed to the union's terms is the popular studio A24 known for properties like 2023’s Everything Everywhere All at Once and the 2018 horror film Hereditary. Allowing for their new properties to be theatrically released.
Where the strike stands now:
The current standing with the SAG-AFTRA strikes is promising. As of Wednesday the 8th of November, the SAG-AFTRA union and the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers representative of well-known studios as named above, reached a Tentative deal, implementing an end to the 118-day long strike. A few days later, in a meeting conducted on Friday the 10th of November held over Zoom, the negotiating committee presented the primary deal points and demands to board members, who in response will have the opportunity to ask questions and process the items before voting on whether to approve it or not, according to the national board.
The combination of the actors' and writers' strikes is estimated to have cost the Californian economy around 6.5bn dollars (£5.26m), according to trade publication Deadline.
Finally, the deal indicates a new era for studios and performers alike in Hollywood, and a long-awaited return to normalcy for the strikers, productions are now back up and running and shall be released slightly later than their original release dates.
Audiences will be watching more of their favourite titles before they know it.