The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) voted to go on strike after failing to reach an agreement with movie and television studios, as well as online streaming services, over a number of issues. This comes just over two months after the Writers Guild of America (WGA) also went on strike due to exploitative business practices and low pay. The goal of these strikes is to obtain better pay and benefits for their members, including better residuals for streaming shows, as well as to curtail efforts by studios to exploit actors using AI and other similar technology.
What is SAG-AFTRA?
SAG-AFTRA is one of the largest unions in the United States representing actors in television, radio, movies, and other similar industries. It is estimated to have more than 170,000 members across the country, including everyone from household names to minor background actors. With few exceptions, almost every professional actor across the U.S. is a member of SAG-AFTRA, and most film, television, and radio productions require actors to be members of the union.
Why is SAG-AFTRA on Strike?
SAG-AFTRA has voted to go on strike after failing to come to a series of disagreements about important developments in the acting profession. Most notably, the union has noted that actors are often substantially underpaid for their work, particularly when it comes to streaming shows, where residuals are far lower than they are in conventional media. There are also concerns about studios using AI to replicate actors’ likenesses and use them without consent or compensation.
Why Are Studios and Streaming Services Refusing SAG-AFTRA’s Terms?
Representatives of major studios and streaming services, meanwhile, have resisted these terms, calling SAG-AFTRA’s demands unreasonable. A particular sticking point for streaming services is over the data about who is watching what shows and movies, and how long they are watching them for. SAG-AFTRA wants access to this data to help negotiate actor contracts, but streaming services have refused to provide that data, raising concerns about just how honest their publicly released metrics are.
What Happens Now?
While SAG-AFTRA is on strike, members of the union cannot participate in any production made by any entity they are striking against. They also cannot help to promote those projects by attending premieres, providing interviews to publications, or going to conventions. The union has also made it clear that anyone who scabs for these productions will not be able to get SAG-AFTRA representation in the future, potentially freezing them out of the industry.
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