SAG-AFTRA is officially on strike. After more than four weeks of negotiation, the guild was unable to reach a contract agreement with AMPTP. The strike officially begins at midnight tonight and guild members are expected to start picketing Friday morning. This is the first SAG-AFTRA strike since 1980.
“We are the victims,” SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said during a press conference announcing the strike. “We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people we’ve been in business with are treating us.”
Drescher sounded like she was fighting back tears as she delivered an impassioned and angry speech attacking the actions of the AMPTP alongside National Executive Director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. She made clear that the decision to strike wasn’t made lightly, but instead viewed as a last resort.
“It is disgusting,” Drescher said. “Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment. We stand in solidarity.”
Many of SAG-AFTRA’s demands mirror those of the WGA — higher residuals on streaming shows, pay minimums, protection against exploitation and job loss due to AI-created content. According to a statement from SAG-AFTRA leadership to members, the AMPTP remained “unwilling to offer a fair deal.”
“As you know, over the past decade, your compensation has been severely eroded by the rise of the streaming ecosystem,” the statement said. “Furthermore, artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to creative professions, and all actors and performers deserve contract language that protects them from having their identity and talent exploited without consent and pay. Despite our team’s dedication to advocating on your behalf, the AMPTP has refused to acknowledge that enormous shifts in the industry and economy have had a detrimental impact on those who perform labor for the studios.”
The AMPTP responded with a bullet point list of their concessions, including details like “substantial increases in pension and health contribution caps” and “groundbreaking AI proposal which protects performers’ digital likenesses.”
“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 AMPTP’s statement said. “A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life. The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.”
Already the decision is affecting the industry — in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, a Q&A with Matthew Modine for the film The Martini Shot was pulled from the Galway Film Fleadh in Ireland in a move of solidarity. Several other industry unions have already voiced their support, including the Actor’s Equity Association, which protects stage performers.
A recent Deadline report cited anonymous sources saying studio execs would let the strike drag out until guild members could no longer afford to pay their rents and mortgages. A representative from the AMPTP responded to those allegations saying, “These anonymous people are not speaking on behalf of the AMPTP or member companies, who are committed to reaching a deal and getting our industry back to work.”
It is currently unclear when the AMPTP will return to the bargaining table with either the WGA or SAG-AFTRA.
Update: (Thursday, July 13 at 5:15 PM ET): According to SAG-AFTRA strike rules, guild members are not allowed to do promotion or press of their projects — the strike decision and ruling led to Emily Blunt and Cillian Murphy immediately leaving the premiere of Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer. Under the rules actor are prohibited to do auditions, voice work, stunt work, and puppeteering, among other things, and cannot promote or publicize projects on podcasts, at fan expos, on social media, and more.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.