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Actors’ Union Just Sent Out a Strike Authorization Vote, so What Does That Mean?

SAG-AFTRA strike authorization vote graphic of a clenched fist. It says "Vote yes. 2023 TV/Theatrical strike."

In the wake of the WGA writers’ strike, SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, will be allowing its membership to vote on whether they’d approve a strike if their upcoming talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) don’t progress the way they’d like.

Yesterday, a press release from SAG-AFTRA announced that their “National Board agreed unanimously to recommend that its members vote to authorize a strike.” It goes on to say that “the action comes following a unanimous agreement by the TV/Theatrical negotiating committee that the strike authorization would give the union maximum bargaining leverage as it enters this round of negotiations with the AMPTP.”

What does the SAG-AFTRA strike authorization vote mean?

SAG-AFTRA’s National Board is allowing the union’s 160,000-person-strong membership to vote on whether they’d be willing to strike or not, and is encouraging the membership to vote yes, so that they have leverage going into negotiations.

A “Yes” vote does not mean there definitely will be a strike, only that the membership supports a strike and is willing to have it be on the table to be called if needed. Despite qualms about SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher’s leadership and solidarity with sister unions, she has expressed full-throated support of their board’s decision, saying,

“For the first time in a very long time, our member leadership stands in solidarity at the negotiating committee and the National Board levels on moving forward with a strike authorization. We must get all our ducks in a row should the need present itself. The prospect of a strike is not a first option, but a last resort. As my dad always says, ‘Better to have and not need than to need and not have!’ Therefore, I implore eligible members to follow the leads of both the negotiating committee and the National Board with an unprecedented show of solidarity and make three a charm with an emphatic ‘yes’ for a strike authorization vote!”

Why is the SAG-AFTRA strike authorization vote important?

Screenwriter Rob Forman took to TikTok yesterday to explain the significance of SAG-AFTRA voting on whether or not to authorize a strike. One important thing he mentions is that the margin of the vote remains to be seen.

When the WGA’s members had their vote on whether to authorize a strike at the end of April, 98% of the 9,218 ballots cast (there are 11,500 members total) voted in favor of striking. The WGA has been on strike several times before, but this was a historically high margin of support. As Forman puts it, “it just goes to show that the companies that comprise the AMPTP in the streaming era have really screwed creatives over.”

There is something very different about this year, and these negotiations. The world has changed, and workers are at a point where they’re done allowing corporations to have priority over them and their needs.

SAG-AFTRA members, as well as DGA (Directors Guild of America) members and IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada) members, have already been marching in solidarity with writers on their picket lines. While the results of SAG-AFTRA’s strike authorization vote remain to be seen, I wouldn’t be surprised if the union were to overwhelmingly vote to strike.

Despite past differences, we are now in a moment where all the unions and all laborers in entertainment, no matter their position or craft, understand that this is a fight for the future of the industry and their place in it. They are more united than ever in fighting to ensure that they are adequately compensated, cared for, and supported by the corporations making billions of dollars in profits, globally, off of their work.

Eligible SAG-AFTRA members will be receiving their voting materials starting today and will have until June 5 to cast their votes. SAG-AFTRA’s negotiations with the AMPTP begin June 7.

(featured image: SAG-AFTRA)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former Mary Sue assistant editor from 2015-18. Teresa's returned to play in the TMS sandbox as a freelancer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.