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SAG-AFTRA Goes on Strike Following Failed Negotiation

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has announced they will go on strike following a vote by the group’s National Board during a press conference on Thursday morning.


As a result of the decision, members of the guild will not only be leaving sets for film and television productions but will also abstain from participating in promotional work, such as press junkets, convection appearances and even sharing work on social media.


“Despite our team's efforts, the AMPTPT has remained steadfast in its commitment to devaluing the work of our members,”  Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said during the press conference.


The strike comes after SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) were unable to come to an agreement regarding contract negotiations by the July 12 deadline. Negotiations with the AMPTP began on June 7, and with the original deadline of June 30 before being extended to July 12.


According to a statement released by SAG-AFTRA on Thursday morning the AMPTP was unwilling to offer a deal on key issues the guild was pushing for. As a result, the negotiating team unanimously voted to recommend a strike.


Among these shifts has been the use of AI in the film and television industry, something that has been a sticking point for not only SAG-AFTRA, but the WGA and the Directors Guild of America as well (DGA) as well. Crabtree-Ireland said one of the offers the AMPTP proposed regarding AI was a deal where background actors would be scanned and their likeness be available to use in perpetuity.


“Artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to creative professions,” a message to members said. “All actors and performers deserve contract language that protects them from having their identity and talent exploited without consent and pay.”


The use of AI in entertainment has become a contentious issue in the past year. Disney and Marvel Studios received criticism from fans and artists when it was revealed the opening sequence art from the Secret Invasion television series were AI generated. The DGA had earned criticism for their acceptance of a deal with the AMPTP which many considered to have a built in loophole regarding the use of AI.


With the vote, SAG-AFTRA will be the second major union in Hollywood to go on strike and join the Writers Guild of America-who’ve started their own back in May 2. This is the first time the two guilds have both been on strike simultaneously since 1960.


Disney CEO Bob Iger has called the demands of both SAG-AFTRA and the WGA are an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Thursday morning. Iger said the strike, then still being decided upon, would be disruptive to the industry.


In a statement to the Rolling Stone, the AMPTP said they were disappointed SAG-AFTRA had refused to continue negotiating. They said they had offered historically high residual and pay increases, as well as an AI proposal to protect an actor's digital likeness.


On Monday SAG-AFTRA held a call with representatives from prominent publicists to lay out the ground rules for the strike, which included walking away from promotional activities.  SAG-AFTRA has said this will include actors ending Emmy campaigning.


On June 6, before negotiations started, nearly 65,000 SAG-AFTRA members had voted on whether to go on strike if the negotiations failed. Nearly 98% of these members voted to strike.


According to The New York Times the effects of the strike have already been seen at the London premiere of the film Oppenheimer, where the cast has repeatedly left mid-event. The event had been moved an hour earlier to avoid this, but actress EMily Blunt, who stars in the film, said if the announcement was made they would be leaving.


Officially, the strike starts at midnight, with actors on the picket line on Friday. The WGA sent a letter to members expressing support for SAG-AFTRA’s decision.

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