SAG-AFTRA Officially Declares Actors Strike

The development comes after negotiations fell apart between the actors' union and Hollywood studios on a new contract.

Hollywood actors are officially on strike.

The SAG-AFTRA national board met Thursday to formally approve a strike after negotiations fell apart between the actors' union and major Hollywood studios and streamers, who are represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The deadline to reach a new agreement expired Wednesday, July 12 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time. The strike officially begins Friday at midnight Pacific time. 

The actors will now join the writers on the picket line, marking the first time since 1960 two major guilds will be striking at the same time. The writers' strike began May 2 and is in its 10th week.

Fran Drescher, SAG-AFTRA president, and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director/chief negotiator, took part Thursday at a press conference following the national board vote to make the strike announcement. Crabtree-Ireland said talks with the AMPTP left the union "with no choice" but to move forward with a strike. Drescher didn't mince words either, calling out the studios and streamers for "plead[ing] poverty."

"It’s really important that this negotiation be covered because the eyes of the world -- particularly, the eyes of labor -- are upon us. What happens here is important because what’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor," the SAG-AFTRA president said in a passionate speech, calling this "a very seminal hour for us." "By means of when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority, and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run.

"I went in in earnest, thinking that we would be able to avert a strike," Drescher said. "The gravity of this move is not lost on me or our negotiating committee or our board members who have voted unanimously to proceed with a strike. It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands, if not millions of people, all across this country and around the world. Not only members of this union, but people who work in other industries that service the people who work in this industry."

"It came with great sadness that we came to this crossroads. We had no choice,” she continued. “We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people we have been in business with are treating us. I cannot believe it, quite frankly, how far apart we are on so many things. How they plead poverty that losing money left and right while giving millions to CEOs. It’s disgusting, shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history at this moment."

She also noted this is a turning point for the industry with the rise of artificial intelligence, one of the main issues at hand. "The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, AI," Drescher said, saying it is "a moment of history that is a moment of truth." She shared it was crucial they "stand tall."

Among the actors' sticking points for a new agreement are improved compensation and benefits, residuals that reflect the value of their contributions amid the expansion of streaming services, regulated use of artificial intelligence and the issue of self-taped auditions.

Shortly after the current contract expired, Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland issued a statement to SAG-AFTRA members, saying the AMPTP's response to their proposals for a fair agreement "have not been adequate." They also announced the negotiating committee had voted unanimously to recommend a strike, passing their recommendation along to the national board Thursday morning.

On Thursday evening London time, the cast of Oppenheimer went forward with the U.K. premiere of their upcoming film, walking the red carpet and doing interviews prior to the actors strike officially being approved.

"I hope everyone makes a fair deal and we are here to celebrate this movie. And if they call it, we’ll be leaving together as cast in unity with everyone," Emily Blunt told Deadline. "We are gonna have to. We are gonna have to. We will see what happens. Right now it’s the joy to be together.”

Matt Damon similarly expressed his support for SAG-AFTRA, telling Deadline, "It's brutal for our sister unions. It's brutal for IATSE. And it's going to be tough for the actors -- for the 160,000 actors. Nobody wants a work stoppage, but if our leadership is saying that the deal isn't fair then we gotta hold strong until we get a deal that's fair for working actors. It's the difference between having healthcare and not for a lot of actors, and we gotta do what's right by them."

The actors strike effectively shuts down Hollywood, as nearly all productions -- save for non-union or unscripted projects -- will now be shuttered until a resolution is reached.

"SAG/AFTRA going on a possible strike has really instilled a grave fear for everyone in the entertainment industry because now more than ever, all sides will be affected, with many wondering when their next paycheck will come in," a source told ET prior to the actors strike being approved. "Some in the business are already financial planning by setting aside funds, borrowing money, dipping into other resources. They're basically seeing what they can do in order for themselves and many of their family's to survive."

On June 24, Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland updated members of the union on negotiations with the studios. Drescher shared in a video message at the time that talks had been "extremely productive" and that "we're going to achieve a seminal deal."

A few days later, more than 300 actors -- including Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence -- signed a letter urging leaders not to compromise and writing "SAG-AFTRA members may be ready to make sacrifices that leadership is not."

Late on July 11, SAG-AFTRA negotiators agreed to the AMPTP's request for a federal mediator, according to Reuters, in a last-minute effort to avoid an actors strike. The actors' union said in a statement it intended on sticking to the July 12 deadline and would "exhaust every possible opportunity to make a deal. However we are not confident that the employers have any intention of bargaining toward an agreement."

The actors' union had previously voted to move forward with a strike should a deal not be reached by deadline, voting 98 percent to authorize one if it came down to that. 

Negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP began in earnest June 7 with the original contract expiring Friday, June 30 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time. An extension was granted until July 12 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time.