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SAG-AFRA : Why are actors on strike?

On 14th of January 2023, SAG- AFTRA, a union representing about 160,000 Hollywood actors, officially kickstarted a strike after failing to reach a deal with Hollywood’s biggest studios.

That means Hollywood actors and writers are on strike simultaneously for the first time in more than 60 years, bringing most film and TV works to a halt.

Among other demands, actors that are on strike call for increased pay and a redefining of residuals, which union members say has significantly decreased amid the rise of streaming services. Residuals are fiscal compensation paid out to actors whenever television shows or pictures they’ve appeared in are replayed.

The union’s members join the Writers Guild of America members who have been on strike since May. While numerous of the world’s highest-paid celebrities have raised their support for the strike, the concerns about advanced pay and residuals affect thousands of actors who perform in hundreds of films and television shows.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a figure of$27.73/hr as the average pay for California actors in 2022. Still, the BLS noted in the data that actors aren’t paid full-time year-round due to the nature of the job.

SAG- AFRA members were on a sentry line in Times Square in New York, US, on Friday July 14, 2023. For the first time in 60 years, Hollywood writers and actors are on strike at the same time- a cataclysm for hundreds of thousands of film and TV workers formerly idled by the entertainment industry's growing labour strife.

Before the contract between actors and movie studios officially expired this week, SAG- AFTRA members had negotiated specific minimal rates for players. For illustration, an actor who worked on a TV show for one week was paid a minimum of $3,756.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the top paid actor of 2022, combing in $270 million, according to top-paid entertainers. Johnson received hefty paydays from his parts in “Jungle voyage” and “Red Notice”, but according to Forbes, the majority of his earned income in 2022 came from his tequila brand, Teremana.

Tom Cruise made headlines last year for reportedly making $100 million from his deal to star in “Top Gun Maverick”, for which he received a cut of ticket deals.

The minimum fee a performer must take home in one year to qualify for health insurance is $26,470. While well-known actors are paid millions of dollars to star in movies and television shows most members of SAG- AFTRA don’t bring in enough income each year to meet the union’s minimum demand.

According to Shaan Sharma, an actor and SAG- AFTRA board member, just12.7 of SAG- AFTRA members qualify for the union’s health plan.

Another major issue is actors say that the figures around residuals has changed as more show and movies have moved to streaming services, where it isn’t always clear how often content is replayed, actors say they’re making significantly less money.

Writers and actors on strike take part in a rally outside Paramount studios in Los Angeles on Friday, July 14, 2023. This marks the first day actors officially joined the sentry lines two months after screenwriters began striking in their bid to get better pay and working conditions.

On Thursday, Disney CEO Bob Iger said striking actors’ and writers ’demands are “just not realistic.” “They're adding to a set of challenges that this business is formerly facing, that's relatively frankly, very disruptive”, he told CNBC.

When Iger rejoined Disney as CEO in November 2022, he agreed to a periodic base payment of $1 million with an implicit periodic perk of $2 million. The agreement also includes stock awards from Disney totalling $25 million.

On Wednesday, Iger agreed to remain in his post as CEO of Disney through 2026 while the company’s board quests for a successor. In his new agreement, Iger is now eligible for a perk of over to $5 million, according to a company filing, meaning his total pay may reach $31 million per year.

Walt Disney Studios is part of The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers( AMPTP), the trade group that negotiates with currently striking writers and actors. Other major movie studios, similar as Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures, along with streaming services like Netflix and Apple TV are members as well. Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent company, is also a member.

Netflix’s co-CEOs Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters made $50 million and $28 million, respectively, in 2022, according to a company filing.

The potential profitable impact of the combined writers’ and actors’ strike is estimated to generate $4 billion or more in damage, with the strike causing a multitude of Hollywood projects to pause, and is presumed to affect the US economy and the world at large.


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