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Actors’ union, Hollywood studios squabble over which side to blame as strike enters 5th day

SAG-AFTRA Actors Union Strike Continues In New York
John Lamparski/Getty Images

(LOS ANGELES) — As the Hollywood-paralyzing strike by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) went into its fifth day Tuesday, the studios and producers accused the union of mischaracterizing the labor negotiations.

The Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) released a statement, claiming the actors’ union walked away from a $1 billion deal.

“SAG-AFTRA continues to mischaracterize the negotiations with AMPTP. Not only does its press release deliberately distort the offers made by AMPTP, it also fails to include the proposals offered verbally to SAG-AFTRA leadership on July 12,” the studios and producers said in a statement released on Monday.

The AMPTP statement apparently came in response to one issued by SAG-AFTRA on Monday, in which the union accused the studios and producers of taking advantage of workers.

“Here’s the simple truth: We’re up against a system where those in charge of multibillion-dollar media conglomerates are rewarded for exploiting workers,” the union statement reads.

SAG-AFTRA’s national board voted Thursday to go on strike after it said negotiations that started on June 7 broke down. The union’s 160,000 members formed picket lines Friday morning from Hollywood to New York.

The union’s contract expired at 11:59 p.m. PT Wednesday.

Currently, no negotiations are going on and both sides appear far apart in their demands.

It is the first time since the 1960s that both SAG-AFTRA and the 11,000-member Writers Guild of America are striking at the same time. The writers union has been on strike since May 2.

The biggest roadblock in the negotiations are concerns over streaming residuals, the impact of AI technology and union member earnings.

AMPTP represents such companies as Amazon, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, HBO and The Walt Disney Company, the parent company of ABC News.

In its statement released on Monday, SAG-AFTRA claimed that AMPTP is “committed to prioritizing shareholders and Wall Street.”

The union is asking for a 11% general wage increase in the first year of a new contract, but claimed the AMPTP is only offering a 5% wage hike.

In addition to a pay hike, SAG-AFTRA said it proposed a comprehensive set of provisions to grant informed consent and fair compensation when a “digital replica” is made or an actor’s performance is changed using artificial intelligence. The union also said it proposed a comprehensive plan for actors to participate in streaming revenue, claiming the current business model has eroded our residual income for actors.

The AMPTP claimed it offered the union increases in wages, pension and health contributions and residuals totaling more than $1 billion over a three-year contract. The producers and studios claimed their offer also included protections with respect to the use of AI.

The producers and studios claimed the proposal it offered the union is “the most lucrative deal we have ever negotiated.”

“The AMPTP’s goal from day one has been to come to a mutually beneficial agreement with SAG-AFTRA,” the AMPTP statement on Monday said. “A strike is not the outcome we wanted. For SAG-AFTRA to assert that we have not been responsive to the needs of its membership is disingenuous at best.”

Actor Kenrick Sampson of the HBO series “Insecure,” was among the union members walking a picket line in Los Angeles on Monday. He accused the AMPTP of “being greedy and inhuman.”

Traditionally, actors have been paid a residual every time a TV show or movie they appeared in is aired in syndication or anywhere in the world. With streaming, shows don’t go into reruns, but live perpetually on platforms and can be played by viewers anytime. Sampson and other actors said residual payments for streaming programs have been reduced to meager amounts.

For example, Sampson told ABC News’ “Nightline” that he received an envelope last week with more than 50 residual checks for streaming programs he appeared in.

“And out of 50 of them, I wouldn’t even venture to say 10 of them equaled a dollar,” Sampson said.

A video that actress Kimiko Glenn, who starred in Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” posted on TikTok of her foreign royalty statement from streaming residuals recently resurfaced, showing that out of nearly 60 recurring appearances on the show, she received $27.30.

“The sad reality is that for the past 10 years my residual checks have looked like this,” Glenn told “Nightline.” “At this point, you have to get a side hustle, you have to sort of have several different income streams to make this life work. And it didn’t use to be that way.”

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