Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

SAG-AFTRA Strike Ends, Ratification Vote Sparks Controversy: A Critical Decision Is Ahead

By HENRY Dec 3, 2023
Voting on a new three-year contract has begun for SAG-AFTRA members, who ended their 118-day strike in November.Mario Tama's file from Getty Images

BY NBC NEWS

Within days, a new three-year labor agreement between Hollywood’s actors and its film and TV companies may become official, but not before strong opposition has raised hopes for a tight ratification vote.

vote on the proposed agreement has been going on for a few weeks among SAG-AFTRA members, who together represent over 150,000 actors in movies and television. The vote is scheduled to conclude on Tuesday.

After an unprecedented 118-day strike that almost stopped Hollywood earlier this year, stalling the production of everything from blockbuster films to network programs and streaming shows, the 129-page deal was made completely public just after Thanksgiving.

On September 13, 2023, actors, directors, and cinematographers Mark Gray and other writers and performers conducted a solidarity march through Hollywood to Paramount Studios during a stop in movie and TV production due to the ongoing dual labor shortages. Mark Gray was holding a placard that stated “No A.I.” Getty Images | Frederic J. Brown | Afp

Following a 148-day strike, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which represents Hollywood screenwriters, unanimously endorsed their agreement in October. Without going on strike, the Directors Guild of America overwhelmingly accepted its contract in June.

Like SAG-AFTRA, the other two unions want more base pay, a larger share of streaming income, and stronger regulations restricting the use of AI in media projects. WGA and SAG-AFTRA hadn’t staged simultaneous strikes since 1960 until this year.

More than seventy members of the actors union’s national board voted the agreement through on November 10 with more than eighty-six percent voting in favor. However, it was openly criticized by a strong minority of board members.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the main negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, said on Saturday that there is “no better alternative than to go forward with this agreement.”

SAG-AFTRA
SAG-AFTRA deal: When will shows, movies resume production? NBC NEWS

Is it flawless? Nope. However, Crabtree-Ireland noted that “it is revolutionary, a deal that accomplishes what our members need us to achieve with very significant increases in economics, more than the last three negotiations combined, and something to build upon with AI.” “We will be back at it in 2 Β½ years.”

The board described the package as “a landmark achievement for the union” in a statement after the vote, noting that it “is valued at more than one billion dollars in new wages and benefit plan funding.”

“The agreement offers significant safeguards concerning the application of artificial intelligence, such as paid notice and informed permission for the production and utilization of digital images of our members, both alive and dead, whether produced on location or under license,” the statement said.

But when information of the provisional agreement became public, several performers took to social media to draw attention to what they saw as inadequate safeguards against artificial intelligence, using the hashtag #SAGAFTRAvoteNO.

Actor and SAG-AFTRA member Alex Plank described the AI regulations as “disappointing,” stating that he had anticipated strong restrictions against the exploitation of performers’ likenesses to train AI models. It would be “allowing synthetic performers to compete with human ones” if producers were to create a synthetic performer under the proposed contract, he said, adding that they would just need to inform SAG and negotiate with the union over its usage.

Plank also expressed disapproval of several of the pay clauses. He said that the requirements for qualifying for streaming residuals, a kind of royalties, were too stringent and that “I don’t think what we got will necessarily help the average actor’s pay.”

Fearing negative effects on their careers, three additional union members provided NBC News with an anonymous statement discussing their opinions on the labor agreement.

One predicted that the vote would be tight, pointing out that “an overwhelming amount of people voting no.”

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher and the provisions of the deal were praised more highly by a different union member who was on the negotiation committee.

The individual said, “This is by far the best deal we’ve ever received, and it’s thanks to Fran and the negotiating committee’s tireless work.” “Everyone will benefit; we’ve come a long way.”

Drescher has responded angrily to criticism of the preliminary agreement.

Variety claims that she informed members in a Zoom conference last month that “sadly there have been some naysayers who have exploited this momentum of ours.”

WGA leaders vote to pass agreement to end strike. NBC NEWS

A SAG-AFTRA strike captain, who was a third source, said that it was unlikely that another strike would be initiated if the new labor agreement was not ratified. “They would probably just work things out and then hold the vote again,” the union and the studios said.

After how much the last recent picket damaged many members’ income, few SAG-AFTRA members are willing to participate in another harsh one. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Comcast, the owner of NBCUniversal, and union negotiators wrangled over topics like minimum wages and residuals in the streaming era, causing tens of thousands of workers to miss months of compensation.

Several of Hollywood’s most influential CEOs, including as Bob Iger of Disney, Ted Sarandos of Netflix, David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discovery, and Donna Langley of NBCUniversal, occasionally participated in the discussions.

SAG-AFTRA’s executive vice president, Linda Powell, said on Saturday that there was a constructive conversation over the proposed agreement.

She said, “Our members’ dedication to their work and 118-day strike allowed us to accomplish as much as we did.” “The level of engagement surrounding the deal itself is a natural outcome of our extensive involvement,”

Even a 51% approval rate for the proposed arrangement would please her, she claimed.

She said, “I think a lot of people waited to vote, to further educate themselves, and I think people are turning the corner.” “The process is healthy.”

By HENRY

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