The SAG-AFTRA national board approved its new contract with the major studios with an 86% approval vote, sending it to membership for ratification.
The official approval was announced by the guild at a press conference Friday afternoon, which finally got started at around 3:20 p.m. after an 80-minute delay. SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and members of the union’s contract negotiating committee were present at union headquarters to announce the terms. The full details of the contract will be distributed on Monday.
“This victory is everyone’s victory,” said Crabtree-Ireland at the start of the conference.
“This is an ongoing, living thing — a contract,” Drescher added. “And we’re not over. We’re only just beginning.”
The deal includes a 7% raise in most minimums, a percentage that “breaks the industry pattern” per Crabtree-Ireland. It also includes a new $40 million residual bonus for actors on streaming shows that reach a certain benchmark of success and more than $1 billion in new wages and benefit plan funding.
Additionally, the guild announced guardrails against the use of artificial intelligence, though it allows AI to be used to create “digital replicas” if actors are paid and give their permission).
“For me, the whole thing, the weight of it all, was extremely stressful,” Drescher said about the lengthy negotiations. “We went to the press and said, ‘What are they doing? What are they waiting for? Are they trying to smoke us out?’ Well honey, I quit smoking a long time ago. So I think they finally realized they were facing a new kind of leadership in me and Duncan.”
Drescher also highlighted the importance of addressing AI in the negotiations, which was one of the final items agreed upon during the contract negotiations: “If we didn’t get that package, then what are we doing? We’re not really able to protect our members in the way that they needed to be protected… If we didn’t get those barricades, what would it be in three years?”
The tentative agreement, reached on Wednesday, put an end to the union’s 118-day strike, the longest actors strike in Hollywood history. Actors were allowed to return to work on Thursday.
The union’s membership has to approve the contract by a majority vote, though that is expected to be a formality.
The negotiating committee recommended the pact with unanimous thumbs-up, marking a rare example of unity among SAG-AFTRA’s many factions at a time of change for the industry.
Led by Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland, the deal was negotiated on and off from early October until a final marathon push over the past two weeks.
The pressure was heightened as the clock ticks down on 2023. The industry is now engaged in a mad scramble to get movies finished for next year’s summer blockbuster season, and to get TV series up and running before the winter and new year holiday break hits in December.