SAG-AFTRA announced on Wednesday that it would hold a strike authorization vote as it seeks to put its “ducks in a row” ahead of June 7 negotiations with major studios.
The vote does not mean the performers union will necessarily join the Writers Guild of America on the picket lines after its June 30 contract expires. In a press release, the union said its bargaining committee had decided that a strike permit would provide “maximum bargaining leverage” for the talks.
“We need to put all of our ducks in a row if the need arises,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in the statement. “The prospect of a strike is not a first option, but a last resort. As my father always said, ‘Better to have and not need than to need and not have!’
The Alliance of Film and Television Producers, which represents the studios, declined to comment.
In 2017, the performers’ union threatened to call a strike authorization vote as talks approached a deadline. At the time, the union said the AMPTP was seeking “scandalous cancellations”. The two sides eventually reached an agreement without the guild having to call a vote.
SAG-AFTRA also obtained strike authorization during negotiations for the 2018 TV Hosting contract. In this case, more than 98% of voting members approved the authorization and the parties reached an agreement two months later. .
This time around, there will only be three weeks between the start of negotiations and the expiration of the contract on June 30. Holding a strike vote now can be a way to gain leverage without having to waste time at the bargaining table.
Drescher appeared on the WGA picket lines and voiced her support for the writers’ strike, which began May 2. But she sparked controversy among some of her members last week when she suggested to Deadline that SAG-AFTRA and the WGA have different issues.
“I don’t think what’s very important to writers — and I’m also a WGA writer — is the kind of stuff we’re looking for,” Drescher said. “While I’m very empathetic to having their needs honored, I feel like our conversation is going to be very different. And I’m hopeful that we may not get to that point.
SAG-AFTRA looks at some of the issues that have been important to writers, including pay rises to fight inflation, higher broadcast residual, and protections against artificial intelligence. The union is also seeking to address the shift to “self-recorded” auditions, which many performers find expensive and cumbersome.
In the statement, the guild said that given the range of issues, “the outlook for working actors becomes unsustainable without transformative change.”
SAG-AFTRA represents 160,000 performers.