Hollywood Actors and Studios Agree to Federal Mediation Amid Strike Threat

New York NY USA-May 10, 2023 Members of the Writers Guild of America East and other union supporters picket outside the HBOAmazon offices in the Hudson Yards neighborhood in New York (Credit: Shutterstock)

As the negotiating deadline looms and a Hollywood actors strike looks likely, studio bosses and SAG-AFTRA agreed to allow a federal mediator to intervene.

Variety reported Tuesday afternoon that industry CEOs held a conference call to discuss how to avert a possible actors strike.

The outlet said Disney chief Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery boss David Zaslav and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos were all on the call and decided to let negotiators with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) request federal help with the negotiations. The AMPTP represents the studios and streamers in the contract talks with Hollywood’s biggest union.

Sources told Variety that AMPTP reps are frustrated with what they see as a “militant minority” in SAG-AFTRA pushing for a strike.

On Tuesday evening, SAG-AFTRA released a statement saying it had agreed to allow federal mediation, but it was “not confident” the studios really want to find a solution.

“We will not be distracted from negotiating in good faith to secure a fair and just deal by the expiration of our agreement,” the union said. “We are committed to the negotiating process and will explore and exhaust every possible opportunity to make a deal, however we are not confident that the employers have any intention of bargaining toward an agreement.”

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SAG-AFTRA’s three-year film and TV contract expired at 11:59 p.m. on June 30. Just before the clock ran out, the union announced its negotiating committee had unanimously decided to extend the negotiating deadline to 11:59 p.m. PT on July 12, 2023.

SAG-AFTRA leaders represent 160,000 members. On June 5, the union announced that nearly 65,000 members had voted by 97.91 percent to authorize a strike if the guild fails to reach a new contract with the AMPTP.

Among the issues on the table are residuals when streaming platforms re-play TV shows and movies, plus new rules to protect against artificial intelligence using an actor’s likeness and replacing their work.

Reports surfaced Tuesday evening saying the heads of Hollywood’s major talent agencies — Ari Emanuel of WME, Bryan Lourd of CAA, and UTA’s Jeremy Zimmer — contacted SAG-AFTRA and offered to help find a solution.

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As previously reported, SAG-AFTRA has been prepping strike signs.

The union has also just laid out the rules for actors if there is a strike. According to TheWrap, SAG-AFTRA held a meeting with top Hollywood publicists to explain how their clients would be affected by a strike.

The PR execs were told actors would need to stop filming movie and TV projects, and avoid any kind of promotional work including press junkets, movie premieres, and appearances at fan events.

This week’s fast moving developments come as the Writers Guild of America strike, which began on May 2, continues.

The Primetime Emmy Award nominations are Wednesday, July 12, but it’s unclear if the awards will actually take place in September as planned because of the current labor issues.

Meantime, the fall TV season will rely heavily on unscripted reality and competition shows due to the writers strike.