SAG-AFTRA's call for a work stoppage marks the first time in six decades Hollywood's actors and writers have struck simultaneously.
The pursuit of a fair labor contract by actors and writers may soon become Hollywood's most closely watched drama. Both the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) are now stalled in their negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios and streamers that produce a vast majority of filmed content.
When SAG-AFTRA officialized its strike on Thursday morning, its members joined WGA writers on the picket lines, now 10 weeks into their own work stoppage. The move marks the first time in 63 years that Hollywood's writers and actors have joined in a strike together.
Though the specifics of each union's demands differ, both are in pursuit of broader protections for their members over contract minimums and the restriction of generative AI used for content creation.
This is the WGA’s first strike since 2008, when the union picketed for 14 weeks. SAG last struck against the studios for three months in 1980. (Their most recent strike, in 2000, was against commercial advertising interests.)
The WGA, founded 1933, is comprised of two labor unions, WGA West and WGA East, which combined, represents over 11,000 members.
SAG, founded in 1933, merged with AFTRA, founded 1937, in 2012. The now-joint union represents about 160,000 members. Since Hollywood’s inception, writers and actors have struck against studios some 20 different times.
The WGA estimates that California loses $30 million a day while writers strike. One expert recently told the Los Angeles Times that L.A. could lose over $3 billion in total by the time writers return to work. Estimates about the impacts of actors joining the strike are less widely available, but will no doubt be even worse.
But how did we get here? Read on for ET's complete timeline on the WGA and SAG-AFTRA's negotiations with AMPTP.
March 20, 2023: WGA Negotiations Begin
Negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP began about a week after the WGA published a report titled "Writers Are Not Keeping Up," which asserted that compensation for screenwriters had been adversely affected by the rise of streaming services.
"On TV staffs, more writers are working at minimum regardless of experience, often for fewer weeks, or in mini-rooms, while showrunners are left without a writing staff to complete the season," the report read. "And while series budgets have soared over the past decade, median writer-producer pay has fallen."
April 17, 2023: WGA Authorizes Strike
In April, WGA members approved a strike with a vote of 97.9 percent. The authorization was the highest in the union's history.
May 2, 2023: WGA Calls Strike, Late-Night Shows Go Dark, Saturday Night Live Cancels Shows
The WGA announced the beginning of their work stoppage on May 2, after negotiations with the AMPTP failed to reach an agreement before the deadline. The strike is the WGA's first in 15 years.
Immediately following the announcement, late-night shows, usually written the same day they air, announced their shutdown for the duration of the strike. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night With Seth Meyers and The Daily Show all ceased production that evening. Weekly show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver also ended indefinitely.
May 5, 2023: Drew Barrymore Announces She Won't Host MTV Awards
"I have listened to the writers, and in order to truly respect them, I will pivot from hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards live in solidarity with the strike," Barrymore said in a statement. "Everything we celebrate and honor about movies and television is born out of their creation. And until a solution is reached, I am choosing to wait but I'll be watching from home and hope you will join me. I thank MTV, who has truly been some of the best partners I have ever worked with. And I can't wait to be a part of this next year, when I can truly celebrate everything that MTV has created, which is a show that allows fans to choose who the awards go to and is truly inclusive."
The show still aired on its intended date, but via a prerecorded broadcast.
May 11, 2023: Mayim Bialik Steps Away From Hosting Jeopardy!
Jeopardy! host Mayim Bialik stepped away from the show in its final week of filming for season 39, standing in solidarity with the striking writers. The show continued with Ken Jennings as host for its final episodes.
May 12, 2023: WGA Denies Waiver Request From Tony Awards to Allow Show to Air Live
Though the producers of the Tony Awards requested a strike waiver to allow its live broadcast to continue in June, the WGA denied the petition on May 12.
Many feared the waiver denial would seriously hinder Broadway's survival, given the theater's reliance on the Tony Awards broadcast for national exposure that is critical to promoting ticket sales.
May 15, 2023: WGA Agrees Not to Picket Tony Awards
Following further discussion with the Tony Awards, the WGA announced on May 15 that they would not picket the event, allowing the ceremony to be broadcast live.
"Tony Awards Productions (a joint venture of the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing) has communicated with us that they are altering this year’s show to conform with specific requests from the WGA," a statement from the guild explained, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "Therefore the WGA will not be picketing the show."
Later that month, the WGA also asked all WGA Tony nominees not to attend the awards show, requesting that they pre-tape any acceptance speeches in case of a win.
June 5, 2023: SAG-AFTRA Authorizes a Potential Strike With 98 Percent Approval
Ahead of AMPTP negotiations with SAG-AFTRA, the union approved a potential strike with a vote of 97.91 percent on June 5.
June 7, 2023: SAG-AFTRA Negotiations Begin
SAG-AFTRA released a statement in April noting that they and the AMPTP would approach their negotiations "as an opportunity to engage in thoughtful and interactive conversations that result in a mutually-beneficial deal." Their meetings began on June 7.
June 11, 2023: Tony Awards Air Live With No Script, Ariana DeBose Leads Opening Dance Number
The 76th annual Tony Awards broadcast live on June 11, but with a fully unscripted program. Returning host Ariana DeBose opened the ceremony with a dance number, which was met with a standing ovation from the crowd.
June 23, 2023: Directors Guild of America Approves New Contract With AMPTP
Following ongoing negotiations with the AMPTP, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) avoided its own strike with a vote to ratify their new contract on June 23. Eighty-seven percent of the DGA's voting membership voted in favor of the new agreement.
June 24, 2023: SAG-AFTRA Leadership Says Negotiations Have Been Productive
In a video sent to SAG-AFTRA members, president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told the union negotiations had been "extremely productive."
"I just want to assure you that we are having an extremely productive negotiations that are laser-focused on all of the crucial issues you told us are most important to you," Drescher said. "We’re standing strong and we're going to achieve a seminal deal."
June 27, 2023: Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep and More A-Listers Sign Open Letter Threatening to Strike
As SAG-AFTRA neared its original July 1 negotiation deadline with the AMPTP, more than 300 SAG members, including Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, signed an open letter reiterating their readiness for a strike.
Per Rolling Stone, the letter addressed the SAG-AFTRA Leadership and Negotiating Committee, expressing concern that "SAG-AFTRA members may be ready to make sacrifices that leadership is not."
"We hope you've heard the message from us: This is an unprecedented inflection point in our industry, and what might be considered a good deal in any other years is simply not enough," the letter, obtained by Rolling Stone, said. "We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom, and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories."
In addition to Streep and Lawrence, other A-listers who signed off on the letter included Rami Malek, Quinta Brunson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ben Stiller, Neil Patrick Harris, Amy Schumer and Amy Poehler.
June 30, 2023: SAG-AFTRA Negotiations Extended Until July 12
At the eleventh hour of negotiations, the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA announced an extension of their original deadline. The agreements, originally set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on June 30, were extended to July 12.
July 11, 2023: AMPTP Requests Federal Mediator the Day Before SAG Strike Deadline, Hollywood Executives Call Meetings
One day before the new negotiation deadline, the AMPTP requested facilitators from the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service to assist in negotiations. A report from Variety also noted that several Hollywood executives had met the evening before to discuss the fast-approaching deadline, including Disney TV chief Dana Walden and film chief Alan Bergman and Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos.
The report also said that several talent agency executives, including Ari Emanuel of WME, Bryan Lourd of CAA and UTA’s Jeremy Zimmer, had reached out to SAG-AFTRA leadership in an effort to avoid a strike.
SAG-AFTRA agreed to the federal mediation later that night, but wrote in a statement that "we are not confident that the employers have any intention of bargaining toward an agreement."
July 11, 2023: Deadline Report Alleges AMPTP Insiders' Plan to Allow WGA Members to Continue Striking for Foreseeable Future
The same day that the AMPTP requested mediation with SAG-AFTRA, a Deadline report alleged that the studios had no intention of returning to negotiations with the WGA anytime soon.
"I think we're in for a long strike, and they're going to let it bleed out," one source told Deadline, cited as an "industry veteran intimate with the POV of studio CEOs."
"The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses," another studio executive told Deadline. Per the report, several sources told the outlet the AMPTP expected the strike to continue through the fall. One referred to the tactic as a "cruel but necessary evil."
The AMPTP refuted the report. "These anonymous people are not speaking on behalf of the AMPTP or member companies, who are committed to reaching a deal and getting our industry back to work," a spokesperson for the organization told Deadline.
July 12, 2023: SAG-AFTRA Negotiating Committee Votes to Recommend Strike
Shortly after midnight on July 12, SAG-AFTRA announced their negotiating committee had voted unanimously to recommend a strike, passing their recommendation to the National Board the following morning.
July 13, 2023: SAG-AFTRA Announces Strike
Following a board meeting on July 13, the SAG-AFTRA National Board announced via a press conference that its official work stoppage would begin at midnight that night. The news marked the first time since 1960 that SAG and WGA members joined together on the picket lines.
"I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us," SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said during the press conference. "I cannot believe it, quite frankly, how far apart we are on so many things. How they plead poverty left and right while giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs."
July 20, 2023: IATSE Averts Strike, Reaching Tentative Deal With Broadway League and Disney Theatrical
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) reached a tentative contract agreement with the Broadway League and Disney Theatrical Productions on July 20. Earlier that week, the union had called for a strike authorization vote.
Stagehands, hair and makeup artists, and wardrobe personnel under the so-called "Pink Contract" were the parties potentially impacted.
Pink Contract workers are employed directly by the productions and work on Broadway shows for out-of-town tryouts and tours.
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