Approximately 160,000 TV and film actors are poised to strike at midnight, aligning with screenwriters who have been on strike since May. This precipitates the first comprehensive Hollywood shutdown in 63 years.
SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s union, gave the green light for a strike on Thursday, mere hours post the breakdown of contract discussions with a consortium of studios. Starting Friday, actors will take to the picket lines.
Fran Drescher, SAG-AFTRA’s president, observes that this labor unrest mirrors struggles across all fields, as Wall Street-driven greed overshadows the importance of the essential workforce. Drescher asserts the union’s willingness to continue negotiations, provided the studios approach the discussions with due respect.
The previous contract, which lasted three years, expired at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, even after its extension from June 30 to facilitate ongoing talks. However, consensus eludes both parties on several matters, including remuneration and the use of artificial intelligence.
The union aims to safeguard fair wages for actors and protect its members from unauthorized use of their images in productions. In contrast, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers argues that it has made reasonable efforts to reach an agreement amid an industry landscape reshaped by the emergence of streaming services.
Many demands of the actors align with those of the striking writers. The writers’ own strike had already caused several productions to cease before the actors decided on their first significant walkout in over 40 years.
Not since 1960, during Marilyn Monroe’s career peak, have actors and screenwriters simultaneously taken strike action. This twin strike action could effectively halt the entertainment industry, posing a challenge for traditional studios like Disney, Universal, Sony, and Paramount, as well as newer powerhouses such as Netflix, Amazon, and Apple.
Important points to note:
The labor dispute encompasses issues such as wages, residuals (a form of royalty), artificial intelligence, among others. You can find detailed information about the core issues here.
The labor dispute took the studios somewhat by surprise. In early June, approximately 65,000 union actors—nearly 98 percent of voters—supported authorizing a strike. A thousand-plus actors, including high-profile figures like Meryl Streep, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lawrence, Constance Wu, and Ben Stiller, signed a letter in late June, expressing readiness to strike.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expressed deep disappointment at the union’s decision to abandon talks, claiming the decision was solely the union’s.
The actors’ walkout lends added weight to the striking writers, who have been picketing for over 70 days. The Writers Guild of America has not yet resumed bargaining with the studios.
The last major actors’ strike was in 1980, instigated by the emerging home video rental and sales boom’s economic aspects. This latest action is part of a rising labor movement, particularly in California, where hotel workers, school bus drivers, teachers, and cafeteria staff have all launched strikes of varying durations in recent months.