The union, which represents some 160,000 television and film actors, said Friday night it would continue contract negotiations with major Hollywood studios and streaming services and extend the current deal – which was due to expire at midnight – until July 12.
The decision is a welcome reprieve, at least for now, for a beleaguered Hollywood, where a writers’ strike has entered its ninth week with no end in sight. A second strike by the actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA, the industry’s largest labor organization, would effectively paralyze Hollywood.
If the actors went on strike, they and writers would be on the picket lines together for the first time since 1960. The actors last went on strike for a significant period in 1980, when they were off for three months.
Union president Fran Drescher appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday to promote a new project and, when asked if the two sides were making progress, said: “In some areas we are that, in some areas we are not.”
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the trade association that negotiates the studios, declined to comment Friday.
The actors’ union and studios began negotiations on June 7, with SAG-AFTRA members agreeing to a strike before talks began.
An actors’ strike would exacerbate labor problems in an industry that has already seen a significant downturn in show and movie production. Notable writers have shut down some productions, and studios have been unable to push unfinished scripts through the development process without writers to work on them.
The writers hope that the actors will join them on strike, a move that would put their union in a stronger negotiating position with the studios.
The writers failed to forge such an alliance with the directors’ guild, which last week ratified a new contract with 87 percent of its members voting in favour. Leaders of the Writers Guild of America called the deal with the directors part of a “playbook” to “divide and rule” the various unions fighting for higher wages and heavier waste streams.
On Tuesday, a large group of actors, including stars such as Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Ms. Drescher, sent a letter to the union confirming their willingness to strike.
“We are concerned about the idea that SAG-AFTRA members are willing to make sacrifices when leadership is not,” the letter said, somewhat curious given Ms. Drescher’s position in the union.
The actors added that issues such as minimum wage, residuals, the casting process and regulations around artificial intelligence needed to be addressed.
“This is an unprecedented tipping point in our industry, and what might be considered a good deal in other years simply isn’t enough,” the letter said. “We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom and the strength of our union have all been undermined in the past decade. We need to reverse those trajectories.”