SAG-AFTRA strike wins big gains

After 118 days on strike, members of Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will be voting on a tentative agreement. Picket lines are down and SAG-AFTRA members are starting to return to work. Voting begins Nov. 14 and will conclude 21 days later.

SAG-AFTRA strikers rally near Walt Disney Co. in Burbank, California.

The production studios have agreed to a package of wage and benefits improvements valued at over $1 billion. The lowest-paid members will see an immediate pay raise of 11%. 

The contract increases residuals — payments made every time a show is played as a repeat — for streaming. With the expansion of streaming in comparison to network and cable television, film and television artists have seen their income from residuals drop. The new contract makes headway in reversing that trend.

The final stumbling block in negotiations was the union’s demand for protections from the threat to job security by artificial intelligence. AI technology allows studios to create a “digital replica” of an actor that can then be used to create footage without the actor’s participation. The contract mandates compensation and informed consent when digital replicas are used, for background actors as well as featured performers.

Solidarity from other U.S. unions — who refused to cross picket lines — and member unions in the International Federation of Actors, combined with the dedication of 850 volunteer strike captains and 160,000 striking SAG-AFTRA members, made this victory possible.

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