Actors union SAG-AFTRA reaches tentative deal to end monthslong strike

The deal arrives over a month after Hollywood writers ended their strike.

November 8, 2023, 10:08 PM

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing approximately 160,000 actors, reached a tentative deal on Wednesday with major TV and movie studios that suspends a strike launched more than three months ago.

"In a unanimous vote this afternoon, The SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical Committee approved a tentative agreement with the AMPTP bringing an end to the 118 day strike," the union's press release said.

Further details of the agreement will be released on Friday once the deal goes to the SAG-AFTRA National Board for review and consideration.

A short while later, SAG-AFTRA said on X (formerly Twitter) that the strike was "suspended as of 12:01 a.m." on Nov. 9.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers also released a statement Wednesday night saying the organization was "pleased" to have reached a tentative deal.

"Today’s tentative agreement represents a new paradigm. 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 forty 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," the statement read.

SAG-AFTRA shared similar details in a post on X, telling members the contract is valued at "over one billion dollars," and includes "'above-pattern' minimum compensation increases, unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI, and for the first time establishes a streaming participation bonus."

The agreement arrives a month after Hollywood writers ratified a deal to end a separate contract dispute with the studios. The actors' deal, like the writers' agreement, has yet to be ratified by a majority vote among union members.

The two professions shared key areas of concern like residual payments and artificial intelligence, but some of their demands differed.

Following the news of the tentative deal, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher reacted to the news in a statement posted to her Instagram account.

"We did it!!!! The Billion+ $ Deal! 3X the last contract! New ground was broke everywhere!Ty sag aftra members for hanging in and holding out for this historic deal! Ty neg comm, strike captains, staff, Duncan & Ray, our lawyers, the IA team , family and friends. Our sister unions for their unrelenting support! And the amptp for hearing us and meeting this moment! #sagaftrastrong," her post read.

Striking SAG-AFTRA members picket as WGA (Writers Guild of America) members march in solidarity outside Paramount Studios on October 02, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Shortly after news of the deal was announced, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said "This tentative agreement will benefit our economy statewide and kickstart a new wave of exciting projects. I am thankful that we can now get this iconic industry back to work, not only for our writers and actors, but also the more than two million workers who power our world-class entertainment sector."

The actors began striking on July 14, joining forces with the writers who had been on strike since May 2. The writers' union, the Writers Guild of America, ended its strike on Sept. 27 after reaching a tentative agreement with studios. That agreement was ratified by WGA membership on Oct. 9.

There are numerous reasons the actors went on strike.

One issue was over compensation. As the industry has shifted toward streaming, the money actors earn for their past projects, in the form of residuals, has been negatively affected, they argued. While it used to be that being on a popular show meant sizable and consistent income in the ensuing years, actors have seen those figures plummet in recent years.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director and chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, said at a press conference that the streaming model has "undercut performers' residual income and high inflation has further reduced our members' ability to make ends meet."

Another issue of major concern for actors was the potential use of artificial intelligence as a substitute for their authentic performances in future projects. Crabtree-Ireland called AI an "existential threat" to actors' livelihoods.

At the time the actors' strike began, AMPTP put the fault on SAG-AFTRA, saying, "A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring out TV shows and films to life. The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry."

During the strike, actors were unable to promote any forthcoming or past projects that were made under the previous agreement between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP. This meant cast members in movies like "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer," both of which premiered a week after the strike began, were unable to promote their films.

The strike saw production on film and television shows screech to a halt and the 2023 Emmys moved to January 2024.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement on Wednesday, "I am grateful that a fair agreement has been reached between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP after a more than 100 day strike that impacted millions in Los Angeles and throughout the country. Those on the line have been the hardest hit during this period and there have been ripple effects throughout our entire city. Today's tentative agreement is going to impact nearly every part of our economy. Now, we must lean in on local production to ensure that our entertainment industry rebounds stronger than ever and our economy is able to get back on its feet."

Negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP began on October 2 and continued throughout the month and into early November.

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