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An Update on the SAG-AFTRA Strike, and What the Tentative Agreement Offers

On July 14th, 2023, actors, directors, and writers in Hollywood started the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) strike in defense of more generous wages, better conditions of employment, and contracts with further consideration of artificial intelligence’s active usage within the industry. SAG-AFTRA, a union that composes of about 160,000 members, had encountered a labor dispute with AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) which led the discourse to turn into a walkout with attempts of gaining the industry’s authorities’ conscious awareness regarding their work-related interests.

A major concern for the guild had been actors’ residuals, which are compensated payments made toward actors if the media they had been previously involved in had been reused. With the streaming service community being more prominent in recent years, these residuals have undergone a significant decrease. Starting rates have lowered for the remittances that they receive.

In conjunction with this issue, the matter of AI had also been raised. With AI’s rapid proliferation, policies haven’t yet caught up with how to protect actors’ rights to compensation whenever their work is utilized in the context of AI. As AI becomes more of a prevalent occurrence across industries such as the one of film and television, the union had demanded for there to be a greater sense of consent for when it comes to its usage of actors’ talents and identities. Those partaking in the strike had called off appearing in publicized platforms, alongside engaging in existing, and ongoing projects.

Image via the Los Angeles Times

The strike lasted a total of 118 days, ending on November 9th, 2023 after the approval of a tentative agreement that had included newly-updated provisions for the actors’ service practices and management. These provisions consisted of increases in minimum wage, streaming bonuses, set restrictions and regulations on the use of AI, as well as better conditions with regards to healthcare and pensions. For reference of a more detailed account of the agreement’s inclusions, you can look at a full, detailed summary of what the new agreement covers here.

As AMPTP had called this their “last, best and final offer,” actor Kevin E. West had stated that the deal is “not perfect” but had also added that “nothing is.” Actor and SAG-AFTRA executive vice president Ben Whitehair called the agreement a “massive win.” AMPTP had said that this agreement “represents a new paradigm,” and that “it gives SAG-AFTRA the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union.” With this negotiation, one can conclude that the deal signifies the protection and support of actors within the professional field so that the industry can continue to flourish within healthy, good spaces.