After nearly 4 months, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), effectively ending the strike that brought Hollywood’s film and TV production industry to a standstill.
In a unanimous vote last night, SAG-AFTRA’s TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee approved the terms of a contract valued at over $1 billion. The guild declared the strike suspended as of 12:01 am today, with all picket lines now closed.
The deal includes substantial gains for SAG-AFTRA members across the board. For the first time, the studios have agreed to provide compensation for the use of member’s images and likenesses in artificial intelligence technologies. The agreement also establishes a streaming residual, ensuring that actors receive bonuses when their work is viewed on streaming platforms.
Significant minimum wage increases were achieved, with background actors seeing their pay nearly double. This represents the largest wage hike in over 40 years. Healthcare and pension contributions from the studios were also increased to shore up the union’s benefit funds.
In their statement, the AMPTP called the deal a “new paradigm” that delivers SAG-AFTRA its largest-ever raise. They noted that extensive protections were secured by the union regarding consent and compensation for the use of AI.
According to the official SAG-AFTRA press release, full details of the tentative agreement will not be released until they are reviewed and approved by the National Board on Friday. But the negotiating committee expressed pride in achieving an agreement that will “enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers.”
The conclusion of these negotiations comes as a relief to the entertainment industry as a whole. The SAG-AFTRA strike, combined with an earlier walkout by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), had pushed Hollywood toward a costly pause. Film and TV productions were shut down, release dates had to be pushed back, and thousands of crew members became unemployed overnight.
With the strike now lifted, actors are cleared to return to work immediately. Major films like Deadpool 3 and Gladiator 2 are expected to restart production shortly. Other projects can resume shooting once scripts are revised by returning writers.
The ripple effects of the strike have been felt since July 14 when SAG-AFTRA first called workers to leave their desks and stages. The strike added to an already tumultuous time in Hollywood, as the industry continues to adapt to changes like the rise of streaming and technological advances like generative artificial intelligence.
While these important shifts provided the backdrop for the strikes, union leaders said that their fights were ultimately about fair pay and treatment. In an interview last August, SAG-AFTRA’s President Fran Drescher said I think it’s a conversation now about the culture of big business, and how it treats everybody up and down the ladder in the name of profit”.
Many see the sizable gains made by these agreements as a sign of shifting power dynamics in Hollywood. Some predict that more labor actions could take place in the coming years as unions could feel emboldened by the success of these strikes. But for now, the industry is breathing a collective sigh of relief as months of labor unrest have finally come to an end.
The Path to a Deal – How Did It Come to This?
The SAG-AFTRA strike came on the heels of a resolved dispute between the Writers Guild of America and the studios. The writers had been on strike since early May, walking out over issues like streaming pay and healthcare. Like the actors, they secured major gains in their new contract, including residual bonuses for work on streaming platforms.
The writers’ deal set the stage for actors to press for similar protections. However, early negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the studios did not go smoothly. Talks quickly reached an impasse over the union’s key priorities like streaming residuals.
On July 14, SAG-AFTRA made the decision to strike. It was the first time that both actors and writers’ unions walked out together since 1960. The dual strike brought the Hollywood production industry to a near full-blown shutdown.
With actors stepping out along with the writers, the pressure on studios intensified. Major blockbusters saw their filming schedules abruptly halted while production start dates were delayed across the industry and TV shows faced interruption mid-season.
The writers were able to win large concessions with their new deal but SAG-AFTRA continued to strike for another month, pushing for similar wins. After nearly 4 months of what seemed like slow progress, the studios finally relented.
Insiders say that streaming residual bonuses were the major sticking point, with the AMPTP firmly opposing these clauses for a long time. But on this and other issues, SAG-AFTRA held its ground and it appears to have paid off. The result is a landmark agreement that the union is hailing as a “new paradigm” for actor’s rights.
Will the Hollywood Studios Recover?
The effects of the strikes have reverberated far beyond Hollywood’s talent guilds. Thousands of film crew members found themselves out of work and without pay for as long as productions were shut down.
Many struggled through months without employment. To ease some of the burden, SAG-AFTRA made their strike fund available to assist out-of-work crew members as well as actors.
The entertainment industry as a whole has taken a significant financial hit from the strikes. Box office revenues were hampered by a lack of new films. Streaming services faced delays in putting up new original content and networks dealt with the disruption of their prime-time schedules.
Analysts say that it could take months or even years for studios to fully recover from the widespread disruption that these strikes caused. However, Hollywood guild leaders say that the fight was worth it as their members now have contracts that will allow them to thrive in the digital age.
Beyond the industry, these strikes garnered national attention as part of a broader trend of labor unrest. From teacher strikes to Amazon warehouse workers, to railroad employees and more, a wave of walkouts and organized strikes swept the US in 2022 and 2023.
That increased labor solidarity provided crucial support for the Hollywood strikes. Other unions joined SAG-AFTRA members on the picket lines. This alliance of workers from various sectors put additional pressure on the studios to reach a deal.
What Comes Next for Hollywood Workers?
The guild has informed members that all details about the upcoming contract ratification votes and strike celebration events will be released shortly. So while SAG-AFTRA’s strike may be over, there are still some procedural steps that need to be taken before this historic deal is sealed.
Meanwhile, the resumption of production schedules could happen very quickly. Writers are already back working on new scripts and revisions. TV shows and films will likely resume formally as early as this week.
The swift return to work will be a welcome reprieve for many. That said, larger questions remain about Hollywood’s future in the streaming era. Issues around compensation and job security are far from being fully resolved.
Some see the recent strikes as the first salvos in a longer battle. As these seismic industry shifts continue, many expect labor relations will remain tense when the next round of negotiations comes up in a few years.