Actors Union Requested ‘Qualified’ Hairstylists for Performers of Color – Here’s What Studios Said

New York NY USA-July 14, 2023 Members of SAG-AFTRA and other union supporters picket outside the HBOAmazon offices in the Hudson Yards neighborhood in New York

In recent contract talks, SAG-AFTRA raised concerns about the lack of experienced hairstylists and makeup professionals available to cater to a diverse range of hair textures, styles, and skin tones on Hollywood sets.

In a memo shared on July 17, the actors union — which has been on strike since July 14 — revealed their list of demands following the breakdown in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios and streamers.

The union called for “consultations with qualified hair and makeup professionals” to ensure fairness and representation for performers of color. They also insisted on a mandatory requirement for proper tools and equipment.

The discussions resulted in studios agreeing to the union’s demands — but with a catch.

While studios said main cast members would receive the necessary support and access to qualified hair and makeup professionals, background actors would be left to fend for themselves.

Related: SAG-AFTRA Leader Says Studios ‘Duped’ Union to Buy Time to Promote Summer Blockbusters

Despite the small gain by the union, they remain at odds with studios and streamers over profit sharing or residual payments, health care, and the use of artificial intelligence.

SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, previously expressed strong reservations about the AMPTP’s “groundbreaking” A.I. proposal at a press conference on July 13.

“[AMPTP] proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness, and be able to use it for the rest of eternity on any project they want with no consent and no compensation,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “So if you think that’s a groundbreaking proposal, I suggest you think again.”

This contentious issue added to the growing tension between the union and the studios, ultimately contributing to the breakdown in negotiations last week.

You can read more of SAG-AFTRA’s update on their contract negotiations with the AMPTP below:

Performers need minimum earnings to simply keep up with inflation.

Us: We need an 11% general wage increase in year 1 so our members can recover from record inflation during the previous contract term.

Them: The most we will give you is 5%, even though that means your 2023 earnings will effectively be a significant pay cut due to inflation and it is likely you will still be working for less than your 2020 wages in 2026.

Performers need compensation to reflect the value we bring to the streamers who profit from our labor.

Us: Consider this comprehensive plan for actors to participate in streaming revenue, since the current business model has eroded our residuals income.

Them: No.

All performers need support from our employers to keep our health and retirement funds sustainable.

Us: Contribution caps haven’t been raised in 40 years, imperiling our pension and health plans. Would you consider raising the caps to adjust for inflation and ensure that all performers, regardless of age or location, receive equal contributions?

Them: Here are some nominal increases nowhere near the level of inflation that won’t adequately fund your health plan. Also, background child performers under 14 years of age living in the N.Y. zone don’t deserve pension contributions, which is why we haven’t paid them since 1992.