By Gavin J. Quinton
and City News Service
The longest TV/film work stoppage officially ended at 12:01 a.m. Thursday after the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union reached a tentative labor agreement with Hollywood studios following months of picketing in Burbank.
“As a SAG-AFTRA member, I am proud to see that our leadership has stood firm in the face of enormous pressure and hammered out a contract that protects our industry for generations to come,” Burbank Mayor Konstantine Anthony told the Leader. “As mayor of the entertainment capital of the world, I am relieved that we are headed back to work making the movies and TV shows we all love. Burbank is open for business!”
No details of the tentative agreement that ended the 118-day strike that brought the entertainment industry to a nearly complete stop were released as of the Leader’s press deadline Friday.
“In a contract valued at over $1 billion, we have achieved a deal of extraordinary scope that 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 Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said in a statement after its TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee unanimously approved the proposed agreement Wednesday.
The union said that pension and health caps have been substantially raised. In addition, the deal includes numerous improvements for multiple categories including outsize compensation increases for background performers, and critical contract provisions protecting diverse communities, according to SAG-AFTRA.
“We have 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.”
There was no immediate comment from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represented the studios in the negotiations.
Hollywood production has essentially been at a standstill since May 2, when the Writers Guild of America union went on strike, and SAG-AFTRA performers mostly honored the picket lines.
The WGA ended its strike in late September when negotiators reached a labor agreement with the studios. WGA members ratified the deal in early October.
The shutdown has been estimated by some experts to have cost the local economy billions of dollars, affecting not only actors and writers, but Burbank businesses such as restaurants, caterers and laundry providers.
“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,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement Wednesday afternoon after the tentative deal was announced.
“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,” Rep. Adam Schiff, who represents Burbank, said.
Schiff added that the industry has been grappling with issues spanning from streaming to AI, and said the deal would no doubt provide a blueprint for workers in other sectors looking to reach a better contract and better working conditions.
Hopes of a break in the negotiating deadlock began arising Tuesday when Deadline reported that negotiators for the union and AMPTP met via Zoom late Monday night and reached a possible agreement regarding protections and compensation for performers in the use of their images via artificial intelligence.
That meeting reportedly included Disney CEO Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, who are believed to have been directly involved in many of the recent negotiating sessions with the union.
The two sides met for roughly two hours Saturday and for each of the previous 12 days, according to multiple media reports. The so-called Gang of Four studio CEOs — Iger, Sarandos, Zaslav and Langley — are believed to have taken part in those discussions.
On Saturday, they were joined by an expanded team of studio executives that also included Paramount’s Brian Robbins; Disney’s Dana Walden and co-chairman Alan Bergman; Amazon Studios’ Mike Hopkins and Jen Salke; Sony Pictures chairperson Tony Vinciquerra; and Apple Studios’ Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, Variety reported.
On Monday, SAG-AFTRA announced that it had delivered its response to the Hollywood studios’ “last, best and final” contract offer, noting at the time that the two sides were still lacking an agreement on “several essential items,” including the use of AI.
The studios had warned that unless a deal is reached within the week it will be impossible for broadcasters to salvage half a season of scripted television.
The 2024 summer movie season was also increasingly in peril, as more and more films have been delayed to 2025. The Producers Guild of America issued a statement congratulating SAG-AFTRA “for their unwavering dedication in reaching an agreement with the studios. We eagerly look forward to collaborating with our fellow writers, actors and director as we collectively work towards revitalizing our industry and returning to work.”
The WGA also congratulated the actors’ union for reaching a deal to address “the challenges the actors were facing.”
“We’re thrilled to see SAG-AFTRA members win a contract that creates new protections for performers and gives them a greater share of the immense value they create,” WGA officials said in a statement.
The Directors Guild of America, which reached a contract deal with the AMPTP earlier this year without striking, issued a statement saying, “Congratulations to SAG-AFTRA on successfully reaching a tentative agreement that addresses the unique needs of their members. Directors and their teams look forward to our industry getting back to work and collaborating with actors, writers, craftspeople and crews to create film and television that entertains billions around the world.”
First published in the November 11 print issue of the Burbank Leader.