As of 12:01am on November 9, the SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical/Streaming strike has been officially suspended and all picket locations are closed, now that the union has secured a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. (AMPTP) The SAG-AFTRA National Board approved the tentative agreement by a majority of 86% to 14% and recommended a vote of “yes” to ratify the contracts.
SAG-AFTRA’s TV/Theatrical/ Streaming unit had been on strike against AMPTP since July 14th. The striking workers were fighting over a number of issues, perhaps most prominently among them the threat of studio’s using AI to eliminate work for potentially for a huge percentage of the union.
“In a contract valued at over one billion dollars in new wages and benefit plan funding, we have achieved a deal of extraordinary scope that includes “above-pattern” minimum compensation increases, unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI, and for the first time establishes a streaming participation bonus. Our Pension & Health caps have been substantially raised, which will bring much needed value to our plans. In addition, the deal includes numerous improvements for multiple categories including outsize compensation increases for background performers, and critical contract provisions protecting diverse communities,” said the SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical/Streaming negotiating committee in a statement. “We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers. Many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work.”
SAG-AFTRA also was sure to thank the broader union community for their support during this historic strike, saying, “We also thank our union siblings — the workers that power this industry — for the sacrifices they have made while supporting our strike and that of the Writers Guild of America. We stand together in solidarity and will be there for you when you need us.”
“I was determined to redefine SAG-AFTRA as not only the largest entertainment union in the world, but the most powerful. And now that we have forged the biggest deal in industry history which broke pattern, established new revenue streams and passed a historic $1 billion plus dollar deal with the most progressive AI protections ever written, I feel pretty confident in saying this is a paradigm shift of seismic proportions! I am so proud of the TV/ Theatrical Negotiating Committee and so thrilled to have partnered with Duncan Crabtree-Ireland” said SAG- AFTRA President Fran Drescher. “Onward and upwards!”
SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said, “Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe my appreciation of the TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee for their incredible efforts in reaching this tentative agreement. I also want to applaud and thank President Drescher for her visionary and courageous leadership, which was the heart and soul of this effort, and drove tremendous unity among our members and the Negotiating Committee. Once ratified, this deal will fundamentally reset how our membership is compensated to account for the growth of streaming and, for the first time, institute deep protections against the encroachment of AI technology. At its core, this deal is about our members and making sure they are able to maintain the dignity that comes with a career as an actor and performer. This deal is possible because of their solidarity and unwavering commitment throughout this process. The sacrifices made by our members and our union siblings throughout the past 118 days are creating a fairer industry for all moving forward.”
Eligible SAG-AFTRA members will vote on the proposed successor agreements covering television, theatrical and streaming production. The total package, valued at more than one billion dollars in new wages and benefit plan funding, is a landmark achievement for the union.
The deal provides meaningful protections around the use of artificial intelligence, including informed consent and compensation for the creation and use of digital replicas of our members, living and deceased, whether created on set or licensed for use.
The agreement includes an unprecedented wage pattern with two wage increases in the first year of the contract – 7% upon ratification, and another 4% increase effective July 2024, making a compounded first year increase of 11.28%. There will be another 3.5% increase effective July 2025. This package breaks the so-called “industry pattern.”
Wages for background actors will increase by 11% effective November 12, 2023, and then by an additional 4% effective July 1, 2024 and by another 3.5% effective July 1, 2025. And in a monumental breakthrough, for the first time ever, the number of covered positions in the West Coast Zones will equal those of the East Coast Zones. This is projected to add almost 11,000 new covered background work days annually.
A nearly 43% increase to the contribution cap for one-hour productions and nearly 67% increase to the cap for half-hour productions will result in increased contributions to the Health and Pension/Retirement funds, as well as help performers working on those shows to continue qualifying for benefit coverage.
The union achieved the creation of a new compensation stream for performers working in streaming. It provides a substantial bonus on top of existing residuals structures making work in streaming more sustainable for middle class actors. The majority of that compensation will be paid to actors on programs meeting certain viewership requirements. The remaining money will be distributed to other actors working on those streaming platforms through a new, jointly-trusteed distribution fund. This ensures improved compensation and sustainability for a wider range of actors contributing to the success of those platforms. The agreement also adds fixed residuals for stunt coordinators working on television and new media productions.
The contract achieved important gains for hair and makeup equity, the sharing of aggregate diversity statistics, eliminating inappropriate wiggings and paintdowns, gender neutral language, access to gender-affirming care, and translation services. It also provides more sexual harassment prevention protections for performers including the use of intimacy coordinators in scenes involving nudity and simulated sex or upon request and additional safeguards for background.
Substantial improvements in relocation allowances for series performers were also made, covering $5,000 per month for up to 6 months with no cap on the number of seasons. Based on employment patterns, this amounts to a 153% effective increase in relocation payments.
Meaningful protections for the casting process have been established, including provisions specifying that breakdowns, sides, and/or scripts shall be provided no less than 48 hours prior to the submission deadline (excluding weekends and holidays). This is increased to 72 hours for minors. Talent may not be asked to perform more than eight (8) industry standard pages for a first self-tape or twelve (12) industry standard pages for a second or subsequent call back. Additionally, if memorization is required, performers will be entitled to compensation. And performers may not be requested to appear nude or while wearing attire more revealing than a bathing suit that could be worn at a public pool. Producers must also provide opportunities to interview virtually or in person on a first come, first served basis with accommodations for performers with disabilities, senior performers, and minors.
Together, the gains achieved in the contract are expected to generate over $1 billion in new compensation and funding to the benefit plans.
Results of this vote will be available in the second December issue of The Labor Beacon, as the voting deadline is Tuesday, December 5. The deal is predicted to be accepted by members, with many projects already starting back up, but there are still some concerns that the AI protections are not strong enough, which is a wild card in this vote.
The current contracts remain in effect during the member ratification process, except for wage increases, which go into effect during the ratification period. The term of the new agreement is for three years effective during the ratification period through June 30, 2026, and is retroactive upon ratification.