One of the longest labor crises in Hollywood history is finally coming to an end. SAG-AFTRA, the union representing tens of thousands of actors, reached a tentative deal for a new contract with entertainment companies on Wednesday, clearing the way for the $134 billion American movie and television businesses to swing back into motion.
Hollywood’s assembly lines have been at a near-standstill since May because of a pair of strikes by writers and actors, resulting in financial pain for studios and for many of the two million Americans — makeup artists, set builders, location scouts, chauffeurs, and casting directors, who work in jobs directly or indirectly related to making TV shows and films.
Upset about streaming-service pay and fearful of fast-developing artificial intelligence technology, actors joined screenwriters on picket lines in July. The writers had walked out in May over similar concerns. This was the first time since 1960 that actors and writers were both on strike. The Writers Guild of America, representing 11,500 screenwriters, reached a tentative agreement with studios on Sept. 24 and ended its 148-day strike on Sept. 27.
In the coming days, SAG-AFTRA members will vote on whether to accept their union’s deal, which includes hefty gains. These gains include increases in compensation for streaming shows and films, better health care funding, concessions from studios on self-taped auditions, and guarantees that studios will not use artificial intelligence to create digital replicas of their likenesses without payment or approval. SAG-AFTRA, however, failed to receive a percentage of streaming service revenue. It had proposed a 2 percent share, which was later dropped to 1 percent, before a pivot to a per-subscriber fee.
At 118 days, the strike was the longest movie and television strike in the union’s 90-year history. SAG-AFTRA said in a terse statement that its negotiating committee had voted unanimously to approve the tentative deal, which will proceed to the union’s national board for review and consideration. Further details will be released following that meeting.