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In solidarity with actors, other Hollywood unions demand studios resume negotiations

Writers, directors and other Hollywood union members are demanding the studios and streamers come back to the bargaining table with performers.
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Writers, directors and other Hollywood union members are demanding the studios and streamers come back to the bargaining table with performers.

Hollywood's unions and guilds, including writers, directors and Teamsters, issued a joint statement Friday, demanding studios resume negotiations with the actor's union SAG-AFTRA.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers called off contract talks on Wednesday, saying the gap between the studios and SAG-AFTRA was "too great,"and that "further negotiations would not be productive."

For one thing, the AMPTP claims the union's demands for cast members to get a "viewership bonus" — a cut of streaming platform revenues — would be "an untenable burden" that would cost more than $800 million a year.

At a Bloomberg Screentime media forum this week, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandossaid calling for higher residuals was one of the sticking points.

"We had very productive talks going, then what kind of happened last night — they introduced this levy on subscribers, on top of... historic highs in terms of increases across the board," said Sarandos, one of four Hollywood studio heads who has been meeting with the negotiators. "We just felt like a bridge too far to add this deep into the negotiation."

Ted Sarandos, co-CEO at Netflix, attends a premiere in March 2023.
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Ted Sarandos, co-CEO at Netflix, attends a premiere in March 2023.

On the Today Show Friday, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said she's shocked the studios suspended contract bargaining indefinitely. "It's so wrong that they walked out of the meeting, and so disrespectful," she said. "They talk at you, they really don't want to hear what you have to say or why you're saying it."

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SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 actors, dancers, stunt performers and voiceover actors, has been on strike since Mid-July, after the first round of negotiations stalled. They joined the picket lines with screenwriters in the Writers Guild of America, who were on strike nearly five months before making a deal with the AMPTP.

After talks with the performers broke down this week, the WGA combined forces with the DGA, Teamsters, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, American Federation of Musicians, and Hollywood Basic Crafts locals to support SAG- AFTRA.

"Each day a fair contract addressing actor's unique priorities is delayed is another day working professionals across our industry suffer unnecessarily," their joint statement read. "At this point, it should be clear to the studios ad the AMPTP that more is needed than proposals which merely replicate the terms negotiated with other unions. We collectively demand the AMPTP resumes negotiations in good faith immediately, make meaningful moves at the nogotiation table with SAG-AFTRA to address performers' specific needs, and make the fair deal they deserve."

SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, at the union's Los Angeles headquarters.
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SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, at the union's Los Angeles headquarters.

[Note: Many NPR News employees are members of SAG-AFTRA, but are under a different contract and are not on strike.]

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.