The Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA as its most commonly known, has officially announced a strike for working actors that will go into effect as of midnight on Thursday, July 13. In a historic move, they join the already striking Writers Guild of America on the picket line with demands for fairer contracts, wages, and policies for scripted entertainment workers.
The union representing screen actors made the official announcement in a live-streamed press conference on Thursday, led by SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who each took the mic to express passionate disappointment with the direction negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has gone over the last four weeks.
“Despite our team’s efforts, the AMPTP has remained steadfast in its commitment to devaluing the work of our members,” Crabtree-Ireland said during the conference, citing how residual incomes have been undercut by the current digital streaming model. “To complicate matters further, actors now face an existential threat to their livelihoods with the rise of generative AI technology,” he continued. “A strike is an instrument of last resort.”
Among the AMPTP’s proposals for the use of AI technologies in place of actors, Crabtree-Ireland detailed a proposal in which producers suggested that background performers working on day rates be paid out for their singular day of work, only to have their likenesses scanned into the system to be used again to fill background scenes on future projects at any given time with no additional compensation provides to said actors.
It came with great sadness that we came to this crossroads, but we had no choice,” Drescher added. “We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people we have been in business with are treating us.”
“The entire business model has been changed by digital, streaming, AI,” the SAG-AFTRA president continued. “If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble. We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines.”
In a memo sent to SAG-AFTRA union members acquired by Variety, leaders outlined exactly which activities actors are refraining from while the strike continues. This includes all principal on-camera work, principal off-camera work (voiceovers, narration, stunt coordination, etc.), entering new agreements, fittings, auditions, body-double work, rehearsals, and even promotion and publicity for existing and upcoming work – interviews, award show and premiere appearances, podcasts, conventions, even social media.
This new decision has the potential to hit content made by creators of color hardest, as hit shows like P-Valley and Abbott Elementary have already been paused and delayed by the writers’ strike, and the list of cancelations of shows led or greatly supported by Black casts continues to grow by the month.