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Bob Iger and Hollywood A-Listers Led the Push to Resume SAG-AFTRA Negotiations

The actors' union and Hollywood studios will resume negotiations nearly two weeks after the AMPTP left the bargaining table.
  • Bob Iger; George Clooney (Photos: Everett Collection)
    Bob Iger; George Clooney (Photos: Everett Collection)

    12 days after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) walked away from negotiations with SAG-AFTRA, the two sides are returning to the bargaining table — in large part because of a push from Disney CEO Bob Iger and Hollywood A-listers.

    According to The Hollywood Reporter, SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP's weekend announcement that they would resume talks on Tuesday, October 24 came after Iger made a phone call to Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union's national executive director, expressing the studios' desire to come together on a new three-year contract. The AMPTP previously said that the gap between the parties was "too great" to overcome; now, with the strike crossing the 100-day mark, they are expected to present a new package addressing key issues, including artificial intelligence, revenue sharing, and SAG-AFTRA's proposal to charge streaming platforms a subscriber fee, the latter of which has become a sticking point in negotiations.

    As was the case during the initial round of SAG-AFTRA talks (and the final stages of WGA negotiations), top executives including Iger, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav will again be in the room to meet with Crabtree-Ireland and president Fran Drescher. THR reports that Drescher alarmed the CEOs with her negotiating tactics, reportedly proclaiming, "I don't care if we are here for a year," though that has been disputed by union sources who praised her "less contentious" methods. "I don't need to emulate male energy to be an effective leader," Drescher said in a statement.

    Drescher and SAG-AFTRA leadership have also received pushback from within their membership base. Last week, 15 top Hollywood stars — including George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep, and Kerry Washington — met with Drescher, Crabtree-Ireland, and members of the negotiating committee and proposed "out-of-the-box" ideas to end the stalemate with the studios. Their suggestions included removing the $1 million cap on dues and implementing a new residual structure in which the highest-paid stars would be the last to collect residuals. Those close to the Zoom meetings say leaders did not consider these proposals; one source who participated told THR that they left the call feeling "abject frustration."

    Still, actors are optimistic that the AMPTP will offer a new deal on Tuesday that addresses the union's concerns about the streaming pay structure, performers' digital replicas, and healthcare plans, among others. "I'm incredibly hopeful that our union will walk away with a deal that will benefit our membership," former SAG-AFTRA president Melissa Gilbert told THR, "And everyone in our industry who is suffering mightily will be able to get back to work."

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: SAG-AFTRA, Bob Iger, Fran Drescher, George Clooney, Kerry Washington, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Tyler Perry, AMPTP, TV Actors' Strike