SAG-AFTRA actors finally reach deal with Hollywood studios as strike ends

Los Angeles, California - The Hollywood actors union and studios reached a tentative deal Wednesday to end a months-long strike that has crippled the entertainment industry, delayed hundreds of popular shows and films, and cost billions to the US economy.

SAG-AFTRA members during a Post Apocalyptic themed picket outside Netflix studios on Wednesday, as a tentative labor agreement has been reached between the actors union and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
SAG-AFTRA members during a Post Apocalyptic themed picket outside Netflix studios on Wednesday, as a tentative labor agreement has been reached between the actors union and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers.  © MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) called off its 118-day strike beginning midnight on Thursday after finally reaching an agreement with the likes of Disney and Netflix for a new contract including higher pay, and protections against the use of artificial intelligence.

The announcement paves the way for actors to head back to movie sets, an end to picket lines outside studios, and a return to employment for thousands of other jobs linked to the entertainment industry.

"In a unanimous vote this afternoon, the SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical Committee approved a tentative agreement... bringing an end to the 118 day strike," a spokesperson said in a statement to AFP.

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The deal still needs to be ratified by the union's board, and members. That process could take weeks, but the agreement is widely expected to pass.

Talks between the two sides had taken place almost daily for the past two weeks, with CEOs of studios including Disney, Netflix, Warner, and Universal often attending personally, as the clamor for a deal grew.

Given the duration of the strike, studios already face gaping holes in their release schedules for next year and beyond, while many out-of-work actors have struggled to make ends meet, been forced to find second jobs, or quit the business altogether.

SAG-AFTRA strike comes to an end after long battle

members chant outside Paramount Studios on day 118 of their strike against the Hollywood studios on November 8, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
members chant outside Paramount Studios on day 118 of their strike against the Hollywood studios on November 8, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.  © Collage: MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

SAG-AFTRA represents some 160,000 performers. While Hollywood's elite stars earn millions, many less-known actors said it had become almost impossible to earn a decent living in recent years, as long-standing pay structures had failed to keep pace with inflation and industry changes.

When SAG-AFTRA walked out in mid-July, Hollywood writers were also on strike, although they have since resolved their own contract dispute. It was the first time that the two unions had headed to the picket lines simultaneously since 1960, when actor, and future US president, Ronald Reagan led the protests.

Economists estimate the overall cost of the industry-wide Hollywood standstill at least $6 billion, mainly from lost wages. Studios, who have already delayed the release of major films such as Dune: Part Two and the next Mission: Impossible installment, will now be scrambling to restart productions on hit shows like "Stranger Things" in time for next year.

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Given the vast backlog of productions waiting to resume, actors and soundstages are expected to be in high demand in the coming months, creating further bottlenecks for the industry.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass welcomed the "fair agreement" that had been reached, noting that the strikes had "impacted millions in Los Angeles and throughout the country."

"Now, we must lean in on local production to ensure that our entertainment industry rebounds stronger than ever and our economy is able to get back on its feet," she said in a statement.

What has been resolved in the Hollywood actors strike?

Actors Jack Black (front r.) and Juan Rodriguez (front l.) joined SAG-AFTRA members on a picket line outside Paramount Studios in LA on Wednesday.
Actors Jack Black (front r.) and Juan Rodriguez (front l.) joined SAG-AFTRA members on a picket line outside Paramount Studios in LA on Wednesday.  © Robyn Beck / AFP

In resolving the actors' stand-off, both sides compromised on minimum pay, settling on an increase from the previous contract of around 8%. That is less than actors originally wanted, but higher than writers obtained, and the biggest increase in decades. An improved bonus structure for starring in hit shows or films was also eventually agreed upon.

The growth of streaming platforms, who typically pay minimal "residuals" when a hit show gets rewatched, had severely eroded actors' incomes.

AI proved a major sticking point in the final stretch of negotiations, with talks often struggling to keep pace with the rapid advances in the technology.

Actors fear AI could be used to clone their voices and likenesses, and wanted stricter rules about the compensation and consent studios would need to obtain than the companies were willing to give.

The exact terms of the new agreement are still being announced and will be voted upon.

Cover photo: Collage: MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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