Everything You Need to Know About the SAG-AFTRA + AMPTP Negotiations

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On Nov. 8, SAG-AFTRA announced that its strike against the AMPTP is officially coming to an end after 118 days, making it the longest strike in the union’s history. Just under a month later, union membership voted to ratify the new deal with the studios. 

Here’s everything you need to know.


When did the SAG strike end?


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As of Nov. 9, the union is no longer on strike.    

SAG-AFTRA members officially voted to ratify the acting union’s new TV/Theatrical agreement with the AMPTP on December 5. The results were 78.33% “yes” to 21.67% “no” with a voter turnout of 38.15%. 

“I’m proud of our SAG-AFTRA membership,” SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said in a statement. “They struck for 118 days to grant the TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee the necessary leverage to secure over $1 billion in gains, along with the union’s first-ever protections around AI technology. Now they’ve locked in the gains by ratifying the contract. SAG-AFTRA members have remained incredibly engaged throughout this process, and I know they’ll continue their advocacy throughout our next negotiation cycle. This is a golden age for SAG-AFTRA, and our union has never been more powerful.”

After months on the picket line and major economic impacts on the industry, SAG and the AMPTP reached a tentative agreement on Nov 8, with striking formally stopping at midnight the next day. “We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers. Many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work,” read a statement from the SAG Negotiating Committee at the time. 

“Today’s tentative agreement represents a new paradigm,” the AMPTP wrote in its own statement in November. “It gives SAG-AFTRA the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union, including the largest increase in minimum wages in the last 40 years, a brand-new residual for streaming programs, extensive consent and compensation protections in the use of artificial intelligence, and sizable contract increases on items across the board. The AMPTP is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement and looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories.”

According to SAG, the new three-year deal is valued at more than $1 billion, and includes “ ‘above-pattern’ minimum compensation increases, unprecedented provisions for consent, and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI.” The deal also comes with additional compensation for streaming shows, a boost in pension and health caps, and increased pay for background performers. 

How the 2023 SAG strike started 

The union’s previous contract with the AMPTP expired on July 12 without a new deal in place. In a statement, SAG-AFTRA’s Negotiating Committee said it voted unanimously to recommend the national board call a strike “[in] the face of the AMPTP’s intransigence and delay tactics.” During a press conference, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland formally announced an actors’ strike would begin at midnight on July 13. 

“SAG-AFTRA negotiated in good faith and was eager to reach a deal that sufficiently addressed performer needs, but the AMPTP responses to the union’s most important proposals have been insulting and disrespectful of our massive contributions to this industry,” said Drescher. “The companies have refused to meaningfully engage on some topics, and on others, completely stonewalled us. Until they do negotiate in good faith, we cannot begin to reach a deal.”

Crabtree-Ireland added that “the studios and streamers have implemented massive unilateral changes in our industry’s business model, while at the same time insisting on keeping our contracts frozen in amber. That’s not how you treat a valued, respected partner and essential contributor. 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. The studios and streamers have underestimated our members’ resolve, as they are about to fully discover.” 

In its own statement, the AMPTP said that it is “deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to walk away from negotiations. This is the union’s choice, not ours. In doing so, it has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pensions and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more. Rather than continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has put us on a course that will deepen the financial hardship for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.”

SAG members voted to authorize a strike on June 7, with 97.91% of members voting in favor. According to the union, nearly 65,000 members cast ballots, representing 47.69% of eligible voters. Following the news, the AMPTP wrote in a statement: “We are approaching these negotiations with the goal of achieving a new agreement that is beneficial to SAG-AFTRA members and the industry overall.” 

The AMPTP includes major studios and streamers like Amazon and MGM; Apple; NBCUniversal; Disney, which owns ABC and Fox; Netflix; Paramount and CBS; Sony; and Warner Bros. 

Negotiations between SAG and the AMPTP began on June 7, with Drescher and Ireland-Crabtree telling members on June 25 that talks with the studios had been “extremely productive.” Days later, more than 1,000 actors—including Quinta Brunson, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jennifer Lawrence, and Bob Odenkirk—signed a letter affirming their intent to strike if a deal wasn’t reached. 

“Solidarity demands honesty, and we need to make clear our resolve,” the letter reads. “A strike brings incredible hardships to so many, and no one wants it. But we are prepared to strike if it comes to that. And we are concerned by the idea that SAG-AFTRA members may be ready to make sacrifices that leadership is not. This is not a moment to meet in the middle, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that the eyes of history are on all of us. We ask that you push for all the change we need and protections we deserve and make history doing it.” 

Why did SAG-AFTRA go on strike?

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According to a statement from the union, SAG's goal was "a contract that will increase contributions to our benefit plans and protect members from erosion of income due to inflation and reduced residuals, unregulated use of generative AI, and demanding self-taped auditions.” Issues on the table included:

  • Money: SAG wanted the AMPTP to provide better compensation and benefits for its members. 
  • Residuals: Residual payments didn’t reflect the value of member contributions. According to the union, “Compensation has been undercut by inflation and by a streaming ecosystem through which producers pay less residual income than traditional exhibition models.” 
  • Generative AI: The union requested the AMPTP provide protections for members against misuse of artificial intelligence, as well as a definition of acceptable use of the technology.
  • Self-tapes: Without regulation regarding self-taped auditions, SAG alleged that performers faced an unfairly arduous casting process. “The shift to burdensome and unreasonably demanding self-taped auditions means that our members are working harder than ever, forced to take on audition costs that have always been the responsibility of casting and production,” the union’s statement read.

What did the strike mean for actors?


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Members must strike: Members were required to stop working for struck companies and begin picketing. During a writers’ strike, productions with finished scripts can theoretically continue—as, for example, HBO’s “House of the Dragon“ did during the WGA strike. The actors’ strike, however, forced all scripted union shoots to shut down, effectively grinding Hollywood to a halt. While members couldn’t keep working for struck companies, they will continue to receive residual payments for existing work. 

Nonmembers may strike: The strike also impacted actors who have yet to receive their union card. Since SAG members weren’t working, producers and production companies could try to hire performers who aren’t in the union. If you fall into this category, it’s important to consider both the short- and long-term implications of accepting work during a strike. While landing a gig with a major studio might be tempting, nonunion actors who cross the picket line may still be labeled as scabs, which will have major negative repercussions once the strike is over. SAG has confirmed that representatives will ask new union members if they’ve ever worked for a struck company.

For more details, read our guide on what actors can and can not do during the strike.

Has SAG-AFTRA ever gone on strike before? If so, what happened?

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SAG-AFTRA has picketed before—though it was when SAG and AFTRA were separate entities (the two merged in 2012). Here’s a timeline of the combined guilds’ history of striking.

  • 1952: The guild went on strike over compensation, residuals, and working conditions for filmed television commercials. The action lasted from Dec. 1, 1952, until Feb. 18, 1953. It ended with the AMPTP recognizing the guild as a collective bargaining agent for performers in filmed commercials.
  • 1955: SAG declared another strike against TV producers after six weeks of failed negotiations for TV residuals. The strike lasted from Aug. 5 through 16.
  • 1960: The union’s third strike concerned residuals for feature films that appeared on TV. Picketing lasted from March 7 to April 18. While negotiations only granted actors residuals for films made after Jan. 31, 1960—more than a decade past the union’s demand for residuals for films made after Aug. 1, 1948—it also yielded SAG’s first pension and welfare plan from a lump sum of $2.65 million from producers.
  • 1978: SAG and AFTRA went on a joint strike to demand better residuals for TV commercials, which resulted in better compensation for union members. Advertisers attempted to create commercials using nonunion members during the strike, but these were largely unsuccessful. The strike lasted from Dec. 19, 1978, to Feb. 7, 1979.
  • 1980: A three-month joint SAG and AFTRA strike began July 21 and lasted until Oct. 24. This one was over home media (pay cable and videotapes) and included a boycott of the Emmys. It ended with a tentative agreement with producers, and introduced the notion of merging SAG and AFTRA.
  • 2000: The second-longest SAG strike in history began on May 1 and ended on Oct. 30. It addressed compensation for broadcast, cable, and internet commercials. It concluded with preserving Class A for broadcast TV; increasing cable payments by 140% and minimum contract pay by 10%; and granting SAG members the ability to negotiate contracts for internet ads. However, some union members were against the strike, since it meant losing half a year’s pay.

How were the WGA and DGA involved?

Writers' strike

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As of Sept. 27, the WGA is no longer on strike. After 146 days on the picket line and five days of negotiations with the studios, the writers’ union agreed to a tentative new agreement on Sept. 24. “We can say with great pride that this deal is exceptional, with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” the union’s Negotiating Committee said in a statement. Two days later, WGA leadership formally authorized an end to the strike.

“This allows writers to return to work during the ratification process but does not affect the membership’s right to make a final determination on contract approval,” the committee said in another statement

Members officially ratified the new deal on Oct. 9, with 99% voting in favor. The new three-year Minimum Basic Agreement includes increased minimums, health and pension contributions, and compensation for series employment, as well as regulations on artificial intelligence, changes in streaming residuals and data transparency, and writers’ room staffing requirements. You can read a full summary of the new MBA here

In response to the writers’ union deal, SAG said: “SAG-AFTRA congratulates the WGA on reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP after 146 days of incredible strength, resiliency, and solidarity on the picket lines. 

The WGA went on strike after failed negotiations with the AMPTP to protest what members allege were poor working conditions. When SAG joined writers on the picket lines, it was the first time the two unions went on strike simultaneously since 1960. 

The DGA reached a deal with the AMPTP on June 3.

Jon Avnet, chair of the DGA’s negotiation committee, called the deal “historic,” adding that the deal “provides significant improvements for every director, assistant director, unit production manager, associate director, and stage manager in our guild. In these negotiations, we made advances on wages, streaming residuals, safety, creative rights, and diversity, as well as securing essential protections for our members on new key issues like artificial intelligence, ensuring DGA members will not be replaced by technological advances.” 

The tentative deal between the DGA and AMPTP was ratified on June 23, with 87% voting in favor; member turnout was 41%.

What have conversations between the entertainment unions and the AMPTP looked like so far?

Writers' strike

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March 20: The WGA began negotiations with the AMPTP. 

April 17: Members of the WGA voted to approve a strike, with 97% of the union voting yes. 

May 1: Negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP failed. The WGA began a strike against the AMPTP.

May 10: The DGA started negotiations with the AMPTP.

May 17: SAG agreed to allow its members to vote on a strike authorization.

May 18: SAG members were mailed postcards with directions on how to vote for or against a strike authorization.

June 3: The DGA and the AMPTP reached a tentative agreement. 

June 5: SAG-AFTRA members approved a strike, with 97.91% of eligible voters voting yes. 

June 7: SAG began negotiations with the AMPTP.

June 23: The agreement between the DGA and AMPTP is ratified. 

June 30: The current SAG contract with the AMPTP was set to expire. SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP agreed to extend negotiations until July 12. 

July 12: SAG-AFTRA’s contract with the AMPTP expired with no new deal in place. 

July 14: SAG-AFTRA’s strike against the AMPTP begins.  

Sept. 24: The WGA and the AMPTP reached a tentative agreement. 

Sept. 27: The WGA strike ended. 

Nov. 8: SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP reached a tentative agreement. 

Nov. 9: The SAG-AFTRA strike ended.

Dec. 5: SAG-AFTRA members ratified the new TV/Theatrical agreement with the AMPTP.

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