160,000 SAG-AFTRA Members to Strike with 11,000 of the Writers Guild for 1st Time in 60 Years

160,000 SAG-AFTRA members are moving to strike with 11,000 Writers Guild members against the Hollywood studios for the 1st time in 60 years. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP)

Today, over 160,000 SAG-AFTRA members in TV and film went on strike, joining the 11,000 Writers Guild members, who have already been on strike for nearly 3 months. The strike marks the first time the two unions have been on strike together in Hollywood in over 60 years.

Early Thursday morning, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Dresher said the National Bargaining Committee unanimously recommended to strike. The national union executive board is widely expected to approve a strike Thursday morning, which will be announced at a noon press conference in LA tomorrow. 

Dresher says the studios gave her members no choice but to move to strike. 

“The companies have refused to engage on some topics meaningfully and on others completely stonewalled us. Until they do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal,” said Dresher in a statement. “We have no choice but to move forward in unity, and on behalf of our membership, with a strike recommendation to our National Board”.

The high-profile Hollywood strikes come during a historic “Summer of Strikes” across the US as 340,000 Teamsters at UPS and 150,000 UAW members at the “Big Three” prepare for large-scale strikes later in the summer. The strike could likely inspire workers elsewhere to strike in a summer that has already seen a huge number of strikes. 

SAG-AFTRA and the studio association AMPTP are very apart on critical issues, particularly on the studio’s refusal to regulate the usage of artificial intelligence. 

“Their refusal to meaningfully engage with our key proposals and the fundamental disrespect shown to our members is what has brought us to this point,” said National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “The studios and streamers have underestimated our members’ resolve, as they are about to fully discover.”

With over 11,000 Writers Guild members out on strike, the studios had hoped to pressure SAG-AFTRA into accepting a contract that cut undercut striking writers.

Many SAG-AFTRA members were incensed by comments made by studios executive to Deadline in which they described their strategy to isolate the Writers Guild from SAG-AFTRA while refusing to negotiate with the Writers Guild. 

“The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline. 

However, SAG-AFTRA members and Writers Guild members have worked hard to make bonds of solidarity between the two groups. Writers Guild strike captains have been actively training SAG-AFTRA strike captains for any potential strike. 

By striking together, SAG-AFTRA has made it more possible for the Writers Guild to get a union contract. The studios have not negotiated with the Writers Guild since they first went out in May. 

Many union members hope the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA can together shut down production across Hollywood. 

“They’re not starving US out. We’re starving THEM out,” tweeted Adam Conover, a leader in both unions.

Unions across Hollywood have also pledged to support SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild if they remain on strike. Hollywood unions hope to use their strikes’ momentum to cover other strikes.

A new coalition called The Union Solidarity Coalition (TUSC) was launched by various Hollywood workers and stars, including Ben Stiller, Boots Riley. Lula Wang, Jay Roach, Daniel Kwan, and Natasha Lyonne.

TUSC hopes to inspire workers not just in Hollywood to take action but around the country. The group launches its effort during the “Summer of Strikes,” with massive nationwide strikes looming of over 340,000 Teamsters at UPS and 150,000 UAW Members employed by the “Big Three” automakers as well as elsewhere. Strikes elsewhere, in particular, a series of roving hotel workers strike throughout Southern California, including near Disneyland, have helped Hollywood workers to think about how they can expand their solidarity to help other unions.

“Watching people honor our picket lines touched and inspired us, and presented us with a model for unity in action,” said the TUSC in a statement. “Though the [Writers’ Guild] strike is the catalyst for creating TUSC, we feel this is just the beginning of a larger, urgent movement of solidarity between all of the industry unions, and also our coworkers who aren’t part of a union. We want to think big about how we can support each other in the face of a national labor crisis.”

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]