The Strike Issues Explained

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The Screen Actors Guild is in its second week of striking, joining the Writers Guild of America whose members have been picketing for nearly 3 months now. Talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) broke down as a direct result of the complete rejection of all of SAG-AFTRA’s proposals by the AMPTP, which represents about 350 of Hollywood’s most powerful Producers—many of whom are actors themselves. There follows a comparative presentation of SAG-AFTRA’s Proposals, and the counter proposals of the AMPTP. The source is www.sagaftra.org/were-fighting-survival-our-profession. It highlights the substantial divide between the performers’ legitimate demands for a fair deal, and the dismissive countering of the AMPTP on behalf of Producers.

Performers need minimum earnings to simply keep up with inflation.

• SAG-AFTRA: We need an 11 percent general wage increase in year one, so our members can recover from record inflation during the previous contract term.

• AMPTP: The most we will give you is 5 percent, even though that means your 2023 earnings will effectively be a significant pay cut, due to inflation, and it is likely you will still be working for less than your 2020 wages in 2026.

Performers need the protection of our images and performances to prevent replacement of human performances by artificial intelligence technology.

• SAG-AFTRA: Here’s a comprehensive set of provisions to grant informed consent and fair compensation when a “digital replica” made or our performance is changed using AI.

• AMPTP: We want to be able to scan a background performer’s image, pay them for a half a day’s labor, and then use an individual’s likeness for any purpose forever without their consent. We also want to be able to make changes to principal performers’ dialogue, and even create new scenes, without informed consent. And we want to be able to use someone’s images, likenesses, and performances to train new generative AI systems without consent or compensation.

Performers need qualified hair and makeup professionals as well as equipment to safely and effectively style a variety of hair textures/styles and skin tones.

• SAG-AFTRA: How about consultations with qualified hair and makeup professionals for all performers on set to ensure equity for performers of color, and a requirement to have the proper tools and equipment?

• AMPTP: Begrudgingly, we will do this for principal performers, but background actors are on their own.

Performers need compensation to reflect the value we bring to the streamers who profit from our labor.

• SAG-AFTRA: Consider this comprehensive plan for actors to participate in streaming revenue, since the current business model has eroded our residuals income.

• AMPTP: No.

All performers need support from our employers to keep our health and retirement funds sustainable.

• SAG-AFTRA: Contribution caps haven’t been raised in 40 years, imperiling our pension and health plans. Would you consider raising the caps to adjust for inflation and ensure that all performers, regardless of age or location, receive equal contributions?

• AMPTP: Here are some nominal increases nowhere near the level of inflation that won’t adequately fund your health plan. Also, background child performers under 14 years of age living in the N.Y. zone don’t deserve pension contributions, which is why we haven’t paid them since 1992.

Principal performers need to be able to work during hiatus and not be held captive by employers.

• SAG-AFTRA: These timelines we’ve proposed help series regulars by limiting the increasingly long breaks between seasons and giving them some certainty as to when they’ll start work again or will be released.

• AMPTP: Take these select few improvements that will only help a select few.

Principal performers need to be reimbursed for relocation expenses when they’re employed away from home.

• SAG-AFTRA: Drop the ruse that series regulars are becoming residents of a new state or country when they go on location and adequately pay them for all of their relocation costs.

• AMPTP: Here’s some stipends which don’t realistically reflect the cost of relocating to an out-of-state or out-of-country production.

It is not clear how long this standoff will last, but according to deadline.com and a source close to top-tier Producers (see deadline.com article by Dominic Patten titled “Hollywood Studios’ WGA Strike Endgame Is To Let Writers Go Broke Before Resuming Talks In Fall”) the plan is to stall negotiations until at least late October, 2023, to drain the strikers financially, and therefore force them to get back to work with virtually none of their demands met.