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Hollywood Actors Sign Contract To Formally End Strike

SAG-AFTRA members and supporters walk the picket line as members of the Screen Actors Guild strike in New York on July 19, 2023. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

On Tuesday, Hollywood actors overwhelmingly approved a new, hard-fought contract with studios, paving the path for the entertainment sector to recover after a months-long strike that halted film and television production.

According to the Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA, 78 percent of members who voted accepted the multiyear contract.

“This is a golden age for SAG-AFTRA, and our union has never been more powerful,” union president Fran Drescher said in a statement.

According to the union, the agreement contains more than $1 billion in new wages and benefits, as well as protections for actors from studios’ use of artificial intelligence.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents Netflix Inc., Walt Disney Studios, and other studios, applauded the approval of the union contract.

“With this vote, the industry and the jobs it supports will be able to return in full force,” the AMPTP said in a statement.

Voting ended at 5:00 pm on the US West Coast (0100 Wednesday GMT), with a simple majority of members required to finally seal the agreement.

The union said 38 percent of its members cast votes.

SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood studios reached a tentative agreement last month to end the actors’ 118-day strike, and actors returned to work before the ratification vote.

Higher salary, bigger bonuses for starring in blockbuster series or films, and the first-ever protections against the use of artificial intelligence to replace human performers were all included in the proposed deal.

The union’s leadership ratified it two days later, though not unanimously.

Union leaders have subsequently held meetings and issued emails and social media posts to members, asking them to vote in favor of the agreement.

“Today is the day,” said SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, before the release of the voting results.

“This is a big $1 billion deal with a lot of really important gains in areas like AI, minimums, streaming money,” he said. “It’s a deal that I’m really proud of.”

 Shortcomings? 

The outcome of the vote was not guaranteed, and as details of the accord surfaced in recent weeks, concerns about its flaws, notably on the matter of AI, began to spread online.

Actors were concerned that they will soon be supplanted by totally synthetic “actors” manufactured by AI from the body parts of many different humans whose likenesses had been scraped from film archives.

The agreement does not prohibit studios from utilizing generative AI, but it does include a provision requiring companies to notify the union each time the technology is utilized.

SAG-AFTRA would then have the authority to negotiate compensation on behalf of the performers involved, though critics argue it would be difficult to determine who they are.

Actors also claim that the vast number of viewers required for a show or film to trigger bonuses for its performers is too high for any but the most successful shows.

Written by PH

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