The Hollywood actors’ strike is finally ending.
Late in the evening on November 8 — 118 days after walking off set — SAG-AFTRA, the union for actors and performers, and the AMPTP, an association of Hollywood’s largest studios and production companies, announced that they’d reached a deal.
According to a statement from SAG-AFTRA, the union has “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.”
“The AMPTP is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement and looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories,” the studios announced.
What does the agreement say?
The details won’t be clear until the union releases them, but SAG-AFTRA’s statement provides the broad strokes. The union values the contract at $1 billion, with “extraordinary scope” that includes increases to minimum compensation and pension and health plans, “unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation” to protect members from threats posed by AI, and — for the first time — a “streaming participation bonus,” which presumably means that workers who are part of successful streaming shows and movies will be compensated accordingly.
The deal also involves compensation increases for background performers (a.k.a. extras) and “critical contract provisions protecting diverse communities.”
Like the WGA — Hollywood’s writers’ guild, which ended its own strike in late September — SAG-AFTRA was seeking a number of changes in their own contract, which they characterized as essential to making sure their members are both paid fairly and have a future in the industry.
Does this mean Hollywood is going back to work today?
Not quite yet, but most likely very soon.
SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee voted unanimously to recommend the agreement to the union’s leadership and to end the strike, starting at 12:01am on November 9.
Now, the union’s national board will need to approve the agreement. Should that vote be successful (and the chances look good), the membership will vote. (The AMPTP is not a union and therefore does not need to vote.)
Yet once actors return to work, it marks the end of a long, long labor stoppage in Hollywood, which began when the WGA went on strike on May 2. SAG-AFTRA followed in July, but many productions had already halted, due to striking writers or other crew members in unions like IATSE and the Teamsters who refused to cross a picket line. The economic burden has been heavy and had repercussions far beyond the members of the striking unions.
Does this mean everything’s going to go back to normal?
No. This strike had consequences — and that’s the point.
The fall TV schedule is largely full of reality and game shows, and many shows and some movies have been delayed. The Emmys, which normally take place in September, moved to January 15, 2024. Publicity for new films from struck companies (such as Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, from Apple and Paramount) has not included lead actors, while talent for other films (such as Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, distributed by A24, which is not an AMPTP member) has sought waivers from the guild to allow actors to do interviews and walk red carpets.
Furthermore, many workers inside and outside of Hollywood are hurting, and studios like Warner Bros. Discovery, which initially saw a bump to their bottom line, have projected lower earnings for 2023, by $300 million to $500 million.
The strike’s true impact in the future will lie with the agreement. But right now, most of Hollywood — especially SAG-AFTRA members — will be focused on getting back to work. The American movie industry is hurting from years of bad financial decisions, Covid delays, and existential struggles, and there’s a lot of ground to regain.