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Actors Authorize Potential Strike With Hollywood Writers Still Picketing

The union that represents more than 160,000 film and television actors voted on Monday night to authorize a strike, two days before it is to begin negotiations on a new labor deal with the Hollywood studios. The result from members of the SAG-AFTRA union, with 98 percent authorizing a strike, was expected, and it came during the sixth week of a strike by Hollywood writers and just a day after the Directors Guild of America tentatively agreed to a new contract.

“Together we lock elbows, and in unity we build a new contract that honors our contributions in this remarkable industry, reflects the new digital and streaming business model and brings ALL our concerns for protections and benefits into the now!” Fran Drescher, the president of the actors’ union, said in a statement.

About 65,000 members cast ballots, or 48 percent of eligible voters. The actors’ current agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the studios, expires on June 30.

Many of the actors’ concerns echo what the Writers Guild of America is fighting for: higher wages; increased residual payments for their work, specifically for content on streaming services; and protections against using actors’ likenesses without permission as part of the enhanced abilities of artificial intelligence. According to the writers, the studios offered little more than “annual meetings to discuss” artificial intelligence, and they refused to bargain over limits on the technology.

The Directors Guild, in contrast, said on Sunday that it had reached a “groundbreaking agreement confirming that A.I. is not a person and that generative A.I. cannot replace the duties performed by members.” Details about what that meant were not revealed.

The last time the actors went on strike was in 2000, in a dispute over commercial pay. The strike lasted close to six months.

With negotiations expected to begin on Wednesday, SAG-AFTRA is bullish about what this strike authorization means. “We’re obviously coming in from a position of strength, but we’re not looking to strike,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief negotiator. “We’re here to make a deal.” He added: “But we’re also not going to accept anything less than what our members deserve. If a strike is necessary to achieve that, we’re prepared.”

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in a statement that “we are approaching these negotiations with the goal of achieving a new agreement that is beneficial to SAG-AFTRA members and the industry overall.”

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Mohammad SHiblu

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