In a sign of escalating labor relations in Hollywood, SAG-AFTRA is asking its 160,000 members to authorize a strike before it has even started contract negotiations with the major studios.
The performers union said Wednesday night that its board had unanimously agreed to pursue a strike authorization vote, which would give union leaders the ability to stage a walkout if they were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract before their current one expires June 30.
“The prospect of a strike is not a first option, but a last resort,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement.
The union said the vote would not necessarily mean a strike would happen but would give its negotiators “maximum bargaining leverage.”
Strike authorizations are commonly used by unions as a tactic in bargaining, but SAG-AFTRA’s move is unusual because it comes nearly three weeks before talks are set to begin with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the major studios and networks.
The move also increases pressure on the AMPTP, which is in the midst of a standoff with Hollywood writers, who went on strike May 2. The alliance also is in talks with the Directors Guild of America.
Negotiations with SAG-AFTRA are set to begin June 7.
Actors face many of the same issues as writers and directors, arguing that their incomes have been eroded by inflation and the rapid shift to streaming. Actors also are looking to regulate the use of artificial intelligence.
The last time actors went on strike was in 2000 in a dispute over work on commercials. That strike lasted about 6 months.