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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Hollywood actors extend contract talks at deadline

By Nicole Sperling

The union representing some 160,000 television and movie actors said late last week that it would continue contract negotiations with the major Hollywood studios and streaming services, extending the current deal — which had been set to expire at midnight — through July 12.

The decision is a welcome reprieve, at least for the moment, for a beleaguered Hollywood, where a writers’ strike has entered its ninth week with no end in sight. A second strike by the actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA, the industry’s largest labor organization, would essentially shut Hollywood down.

Should the actors go on strike, they and writers would be together on the picket lines for the first time since 1960. The actors last went on strike for a significant period in 1980, when they were out for three months.

The union’s president, Fran Drescher, appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday to promote a new project and, when asked if the two parties were making headway, said: “In some areas we are. In some areas we’re not.”

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the trade association negotiating for the studios, declined to comment Friday.

The actors’ union and the studios began negotiating June 7, with SAG-AFTRA’s membership authorizing a strike before discussions began.

An actors’ strike would compound the labor issues in an industry that has already seen a significant decline in the production of shows and movies. Striking writers have shut down some productions, and studios have been unable to shepherd unfinished scripts through the development process without writers to work on them.

The writers are hopeful that the actors join them in striking, a move that would put their union in a stronger negotiating position with the studios.

The writers were unable to achieve such an alliance with the directors’ guild, which ratified a new contract last week with 87% percent of the membership voting in favor. Leaders of the Writers Guild of America called the directors’ deal part of a “playbook” to “divide and conquer” the various unions fighting for increased wages and heftier residuals.

Last Tuesday, a large group of actors, including stars like Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Drescher, sent a letter to the union reasserting their willingness to strike.

“We are concerned by the idea that SAG-AFTRA members may be ready to make sacrifices that leadership is not,” the letter said, somewhat curiously given Drescher’s position in the union.

The actors added that issues such as minimum pay, residuals, the casting process and regulations surrounding artificial intelligence needed to be addressed.

“This is an unprecedented inflection point in our industry, and what might be considered a good deal in any other years is simply not enough,” the letter said. “We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories.”

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