Hollywood ending: Actors ratify deal after late drama
LOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s actors have voted to ratify the deal with studios that ended their strike after nearly four months, bringing an official finish to the labor strife that shook the entertainment industry for most of 2023.
The approval of the three-year contract from the members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists announced Tuesday night by union leaders was no certainty, with some members voicing dissent on the deal their negotiators bargained for.
The 78% “yes” result in voting that began Nov. 13 and ended Tuesday was a far cry from the near-unanimous approval and widespread enthusiasm members of the writers guild gave to the deal that ended their strike in September.
But the outcome is a relief for SAG-AFTRA leaders and an entertainment industry that is attempting to return to normal after months of labor strife. And it brings an official end to Hollywood labor’s most tumultuous year in a half-century, with two strikes that shook the industry.
Just over 38% of members cast votes, SAG-AFTRA said. All 145,000 members could vote on the deal, not just the nearly 60,000 TV and movie actors who went on strike and work under the contract.
“I’m very happy with the result,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s executive director and chief negotiator. “I think having almost an 80% ‘yes’ vote with almost a 40% turnout for our members, that’s really unprecedented for any kind of contract where it’s not just a unanimous chorus of yeses.”
A rejection of the deal would have meant a return to the bargaining table and the possibility of the actors going back on strike.
The union had freed actors to return to work, declaring the strike over as soon as the tentative deal was struck Nov. 8 with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios, streaming services and production companies in union negotiations. Two days later, it was approved by the guild’s board with an 86% vote.
Control over the use of artificial intelligence was the most hard-fought issue in the negotiations, and it became the main driver of dissent during the voting.
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said shortly after the resolution was reached that making sure AI reproductions of actors could only be used with their informed consent and compensation was a “deal breaker” in the talks.
But they did not fight hard enough for some prominent members, including actors Justine Bateman and Matthew Modine, who cited the issue as a reason to vote “no,” and stoked fears many voters would follow their lead.
“I cannot endorse a contract that compromises the independence and financial futures of the performers,” Modine, who ran against Drescher for union president in 2021 and was also among the board members to reject the deal, said in a statement. “It is purposefully vague and demands union members to release their autonomy. ... Consent is surrender.”