The Strike Is Over! SAG-AFTRA & Studios Reach Tentative Deal On New Three-Year Contract

By Dominic Patten, Anthony D'Alessandro

After 118 days of the actors guild being out on strike, SAG-AFTRA and the studios on Wednesday reached a tentative deal on a new contract that could see Hollywood up and running again within weeks.

The strike will be over as of 12:01 a.m. PT on Thursday, November 9, we hear, putting an end to more than seven months of labor unrest in Hollywood that saw the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA hit the picket lines in the industry’s first joint strike in more than 60 years.

Culminating a dramatic day of studio earnings results and deadline ultimatums, the actors guild’s 17-member negotiating committee unanimously voted this afternoon to recommend a tentative agreement to the SAG-AFTRA board.

Specific details of the deal are expected to be revealed when the agreement goes to the board Friday.

Coming just less than a month after Writers Guild members overwhelmingly ratified their own agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, SAG-AFTRA’s deal is the culmination of the latest round of renewed negotiations that began October 24. Indicating the seriousness and stakes of the negotiations, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Disney’s Bob Iger, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav frequently directly participated in the talks.

The tentative agreement follows the studios responding last Friday to the guild’s last comprehensive counter with a self-described “historic” package. That was succeeded less than 24 hours later by an expanded group of studio leaders — including execs from Paramount, Amazon, Apple and more — joining the Gang of Four to brief SAG-AFTRA on the AMPTP’s offer, which was said to include big gains in wages and bonuses as well as sweeping AI protections.

“We didn’t just come toward you, we came all the way to you,” Sarandos told guild leaders Saturday before SAG-AFTRA brass began digging into the fine print. Further talks between the two sides began earlier this week as the guild pored over the studios’ latest set of proposals.

After talks throughout this week, the AMPTP told SAG-AFTRA midday today that it needed to know if a deal was possible or not by 5 p.m. PT, saying it was running out of time to save the broadcast season and the 2024 summer movie slate.

The agreement was confirmed about a half hour later.

If all goes as planned and the board signs off on the tentative deal, eligible members of the 160,000-strong actors guild will vote soon to ratify the new agreement. Also, with SAG-AFTRA pulling the plug on the strike just after midnight and before the ratification vote is completed, people could be back to work soon and production restarted quickly.

Exposing many of the shifts and divisions in the industry over the past decade, today’s tentative agreement comes at the end of a long road filled with diversions and potholes.

Overall, the six months of Hollywood strikes is estimated to have cost the Southern California economy more than $6.5 billion and 45,000 entertainment industry jobs after production ground to a halt with the WGA hitting the picket lines in early May and SAG-AFTRA following in mid-July. On an individual level, the labor action garnered passionate unity among guild members. At the same time, a fact not lost on the studios and their strategy, many guild members have suffered crippling financial hardship, as have below-the-line workers, going months without work.

After calling the strike July 14, it took the guild and the studio CEOs’ Gang of Four around 80 days before their first official face-to-face talks at SAG-AFTRA headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard. For all the optimism and momentum coming out of the completed WGA deal, those new deliberations between SAG-AFTRA and the studios that began October 2 blew apart on October 11, with the AMPTP leaving negotiations early after the guild tabled an alternative to its contentious revenue-sharing proposal. A few hours later, expecting more scheduled talks the next day, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland received a call saying deliberations were “suspended.”

“Last night, they introduced a levy on subscribers on top of [other] areas,” Sarandos said the next day at an industry conference, calling the proposal a “bridge too far” and blaming the guild for the talks ending. Later, SAG-AFTRA accused the studios of “bully tactics” and using the “same failed strategy they tried to inflict on the WGA.”

On October 18, after Netflix stated in its Q3 earnings report that talks were “ongoing” and Sarandos said the guild “really broke our momentum” towards a deal, Crabtree-Ireland called BS. “The best way to reach a deal and end this strike is for him and the other CEOs to end their walkout from the bargaining table and resume negotiations,” the SAG-AFTRA national director and chief negotiator told Deadline. “We have been and remain ready to continue talks – every day.”

After an appreciated but DOA bid by George Clooney and other A-listers to intervene in getting talks restarted, it looked like the actors strike would pass the 100-day milestone with no end in sight. Then, on October 21 , after Drescher hit out at the “AMPTPs strategy of non-negotiation” and “a blatant propaganda attempt to discredit union leadership and divide our solidarity,” Bob Iger made a call to Crabtree-Ireland and asked to start a new round of talks.

At 3 p.m. PT on the strike’s 100th day, SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP put out a joint statement that they were heading back to the bargaining table on October 24 at the guild’s headquarters. That first day of negotiations between the parties was “not great,” according to a well-positioned source. As the studios put forth a new offer they hoped would end the stalemate over “success-based compensation,” the guild proved unmoved, but also open to further discussion.

Although the parties had agreed to meet on October 25, the guild asked that morning to take the day to go over the studios’ proposal of increased bonuses based on the success of streaming shows and movies and a further rise in minimum rates. “It’s a step in the right direction and the negotiating committee is taking the time to do a deep review,” a guild source told Deadline.

The two sides sat down again face-to-face around noon on October 26 with Crabtree-Ireland telling Deadline he was “cautiously optimistic” about deliberations with the studios. The guild slide across the table a self-described “comprehensive counter” that attempted to move the two sides closer together, sources said. As open letters from both supportive and impatient guild members flew around town, the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee were back in active talks on October 27. With both sides taking October 30 to be “working independently,” virtual deliberations bled into the weekend with the parties trying to bridge their differences.

On Halloween and in the early days of November, the parties met again. As the parties got “closer and closer,” as a guild source told Deadline, on issues, Crabtree-Ireland and Lombardini continued conferring directly, with breakout groups of lawyers and other specialists huddled in search of a deal – successfully we now know. Followed by two days of consultation by the guild, the November 3 delivery of the studios’ response to the guild’s latest counter and SAG-AFTRA’s November 6 counter response saw the two sides find an AI compromise and began moving things into what we now know was the final phase.

Of course, the deadline that the studios set today for the guild to get back to them on whether or not they had any agreement was a last-minute wild-card. Luckily for all, calmer heads prevailed.

Getting to this new three-year deal took an unexpected strike by the actors guild (who many studios execs thought was bluffing despite an overwhelming strike-authorization mandate), a lot of moving pieces, guild solidarity and some hard negotiating sessions.

The actors union joined the WGA on the picket lines when it went on strike July 14. There were a lot of hot summer days when the labor battle remained at a stalemate.

But things shifted after Labor Day. The WGA reached a deal with the AMPTP on September 24 after five months on the picket lines and a final five intense days of deliberations that included the CEO Gang of Four for most of those last sessions. The WGA leadership approved the tentative agreement and ended the strike at 12:01 a.m. PT on September 27. WGA members ratified the deal by a wide margin October 9.

The studios and SAG-AFTRA intended to ride the wave of the WGA deal to set meetings within a week or so on their own talks. However, as the goodwill of the WGA’s successful negotiations faded into bitter public call-outs from leaders on both sides, many feared, even with a new round of talks, the actors strike could last well into the holidays, ruining any chance at a partial broadcast networks season and hobbling the 2024 movie slate.

That catastrophe seems to have been averted now.

https://deadline.com/2023/11/sag-strike-ends-actors-studios-deal-contract-1235566470/

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