After months of negotiations and a rocky period of double strikes in the entertainment industry, Hollywood executives have reached a tentative agreement with hundreds of thousands of movie and TV actors. The agreement, which will end the strike that began on July 14, is still pending ratification by union members.
Details of the agreement have yet to be released, but it is expected to include terms similar to those won by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in the recent strike.The WGA strike, which lasted nearly five months, brought groundbreaking new terms for screenwriters, including higher wages, streaming residuals, greater transparency on streaming profits and ratings, and a cautionary tale on the use of artificial intelligence.
The actors’ strike, like the writers’ strike, is seen as Hollywood’s struggle for survival against growing inequality, especially in the age of streaming. Both strikes have exposed systemic problems in the industry, including a huge wealth gap between entertainment workers and the studio executives who make disproportionate profits from their work.
One of the most egregious proposals initially made by studio executives involved practices that would eventually lead to background actors being effectively replaced by artificial intelligence. Background actors are critical to the authenticity of movies and shows.
While writers and actors have gone on strike over many of the same issues, there are some actor-specific issues as well. These include actors calling on companies to limit the practice of actors paying to record their own auditions, a practice that has accelerated in recent years due to the epidemic.
Both unions have benefited greatly from each other’s support, often working together to set up picket lines at studios and company headquarters. The twin work stoppages and the solidarity of other entertainment unions that led to the shutdown of virtually all film and television production sent a clear message to the executives.
During both strikes, studio executives continued to lift stones, reinforcing their public image as cartoon villains out of touch with reality and further empowering striking writers and actors.
In July, Disney CEO Bob Iger complained at a gathering of wealthy tech and media executives that the writers and actors were making “unrealistic demands.” He also called the strike “disruptive” (which was their intention in the first place) and “very disturbing to me.”
In response, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher condemned Egger, calling his comments “very offensive and out of touch with reality.” On social media, actors and screenwriters turned his comments into a stunt – pointing out that for them, being paid less than the standard of living was “very disturbing.”
The two strikes also marked a major turning point for workers and unions in many industries. From Starbucks workers to autoworkers, workers of all kinds across the U.S. banded together to rail against stagnant wages and corporate greed.
The tentative agreement reached between Hollywood executives and actors is a major victory for both sides. It shows that workers are willing to fight for their rights and that corporations are willing to listen to them.