SAG-AFTRA announced Wednesday it will hold a strike authorization vote to get “the ducks in a row” ahead of negotiations with major studios on June 7.
The vote does not mean the artists’ union will necessarily join the Writers Guild of America on the picket line after their contract expires on June 30. In a press release, the union said its bargaining committee had decided that a strike permit would allow “maximum bargaining leverage” for the talks.
“We need to line up all of our ducks should the need arise,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in the press release. “The prospect of a strike is not the first option but the last resort. As my father always says, ‘It’s better to have and not need than to need and not have!’”
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, declined to comment.
In 2017, the artists’ union threatened a vote on whether to authorize the strike as negotiations were nearing the deadline. At the time, the union said the AMPTP was seeking “blatant backlash.” The two sides eventually reached an agreement without the guild having to vote on it.
SAG-AFTRA also received strike approval during the 2018 TV animation deal negotiations. In this case, more than 98% of the voting members approved the authorization and the parties reached an agreement two months later.
This time there are only three weeks between the start of negotiations and the end of the contract on June 30th. A strike authorization vote now can be a way to gain influence without wasting time at the negotiating table.
Drescher appeared at the WGA picket line and expressed support for the writers’ strike that began on May 2nd. However, last week it caused controversy among some of its members She suggested deadline that SAG-AFTRA and the WGA have different problems.
“I don’t think for writers – and I’m also a writer in the WGA – it really matters what we’re aiming for,” Drescher said. “While I’m very empathetic when it comes to making sure their needs are respected, I have a feeling our conversation will be very different. And I’m very confident that we might not get that far.”
SAG-AFTRA tackles some of the issues that were important to writers, including wage increases to fight inflation, higher streaming rest, and protections from artificial intelligence. The union also wants to tackle the move to “self-tape” auditions, which many artists find costly and onerous.
In the press release, the guild said that without transformative change, given the multitude of issues, “the prospects for professional actors become unsustainable.”
SAG-AFTRA represents 160,000 artists.