SAG-AFTRA announced Wednesday that it will hold a strike vote as it seeks a “straight duck” ahead of June 7 negotiations with the major studios.
The vote does not mean that the Performing Artists Guild will necessarily join the Writers Guild of America in the picket lines after its contract expires on June 30. In a press release, the union said its negotiating committee had decided that permission to strike would provide “maximum strike action.” Bargaining influence’ of the talks.
“We must get all our ducks in a row if the need arises,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in the statement. The prospect of a strike is not the first option, but rather the last resort. As my dad always says, “It’s better to have and not need than to have and not need!”
The Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance, which represents the studios, declined to comment.
In 2017, the Performers’ Union threatened to call a vote on permission to strike as talks approached a deadline. At the time, the union said AMPTP was seeking a “fatal rollback”. The two parties eventually came to an agreement without the union having to vote.
SAG-AFTRA also got a strike pass during negotiations for the 2018 TV animation contract. In this case, more than 98% of the voting members approved the mandate, and the two parties reached an agreement two months later.
This time, there will only be three weeks between the start of negotiations and the contract’s expiration on June 30. Holding a vote to authorize the strike now may be a way to gain leverage without having to waste time at the negotiating table.
Drescher appeared on the WGA picket lines, and expressed support for the writers’ strike, which began on May 2. But it sparked controversy among some of its members last week when it suggested, in Deadline, that SAG-AFTRA and the WGA have different issues.
“I don’t think what’s very important to writers—and I’m a WGA writer, too—is the kind of things we’re going after,” said Drescher. “Although I am very sympathetic to their honoring needs, I feel like our conversation is going to be very different. And I feel very hopeful that maybe we won’t get to that point.”
SAG-AFTRA looks at some of the issues that were important to the writers, including pay increases to tackle inflation, a higher waste stream and protection from artificial intelligence. The federation is also looking to address the transition to “self-scoring” auditions, which many performers find costly and cumbersome.
In the statement, the union said that given the range of issues, “the expectations for actors become unsustainable without transformative change.”
SAG-AFTRA represents 160,000 artists.
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