Hollywood actors are going on strike after contract negotiations fail

The entertainment industry is already at a standstill because of a writers strike.


LOS ANGELES — Thousands of Hollywood actors are heading to the picket lines after their labor union and a trade group representing the industry's leading studios failed to reach a deal on a new contract, grinding film and television production to a halt.

The national board of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA, voted unanimously Thursday morning to go on strike, the guild announced at an afternoon news conference.

The picket lines will start to form Friday, marking the first time film and television performers have staged a work stoppage since 1980, when former SAG president Ronald Reagan was campaigning for the White House and the top-rated series on U.S. television was "Dallas."

"What's happening to us is happening across all fields of labor, when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run," said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher, who is best known for her starring role on the sitcom "The Nanny."

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA's national executive director and chief negotiator, announce the strike Thursday in Los Angeles.Chris Pizzello / AP

The previous contract expired at 11:59 p.m. PT Wednesday.

The guild’s members, rattled by the economics of the streaming era and the rise of unregulated digital technologies, seek higher base compensation and safeguards around the use of artificial intelligence, among other demands. Hollywood's writers are already striking over similar issues.

In a news release early Thursday, SAG-AFTRA said that, after more than four weeks of bargaining, the trade association that represents major companies such as Disney, Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery “remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that are essential" to its members.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group representing the studios, said the strike was "certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life."

"The AMPTP presented a deal that offered historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses for SAG-AFTRA members," the group said.

"The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry," the group added.

The strike will be limited to film and television productions. The walkout will not involve SAG-AFTRA members who work in the news business, such as certain broadcast hosts and announcers.

The announcement comes more than two months after the Writers Guild of America, a union that represents film and television scribes, started striking amid its own dispute with the AMPTP. (The group represents Comcast, the corporation that owns NBCUniversal; some employees of the NBCUniversal News Group are represented by the WGA.)

The writers walkout halted most television production, delayed the filming of some high-profile movies and sent late-night talk shows into reruns. The actors strike will likely force other sets to go dark. The two unions have not been on strike simultaneously since 1960.

Members of SAG-AFTRA join striking members of the Writers Guild of America in Los Angeles on June 21. Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

SAG-AFTRA members authorized a strike June 5 by an overwhelming margin: 97.91% of the almost 65,000 members who cast votes. The guild began negotiating with the top studios and streaming services two days later.

The union’s existing contract with the major studios originally expired at 11:59 p.m. PT June 30, but both sides agreed to continue negotiations and extended the talks until midnight on July 12.

SAG-AFTRA has argued that performers have been undermined by the new economics of streaming entertainment and threatened by emerging technologies. 

The guild is seeking increased base compensation for performers, which union leaders say has declined as streaming-first studios pivot away from paying out residuals to talent and inflation takes its toll on the economy in general.

The union’s actors are also alarmed by the threat posed by the unrelated use of AI (such as tools that can make digital replacements for recognizable stars) and the cost of “self-taped auditions” — videos that used to be paid for by casting departments and production offices.

In recent weeks, some in the entertainment business worried that all three major Hollywood guilds — SAG-AFTRA, WGA and the Directors Guild of America, or DGA — would walk off the job simultaneously.

But that will not be the case since the Directors Guild announced in early June it had reached a “truly historic” tentative agreement with the studios.