Although the SAG-AFTRA deal is expected to pass, criticism of it — mainly over its alleged lack of protections against artificial intelligence — has grown in recent weeks, raising fears of a possible, though unlikely, , a return to the strike ranks. Members have until 5:00 PM PT to vote, with a simple majority required to finalize the deal.
Jonathan Handel, a lawyer and entertainment industry analyst, said approval between 75 and 85 percent is a “realistic expectation.”
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But if ratification fails, SAG-AFTRA will likely have to renegotiate with the studios, which could themselves withdraw previously proposed terms, and a return to strike action could result. “The contract sucks,” said Michael Vaccaro, one of dozens of actors who have spoken out against the terms.
“I voted against. And I am fully prepared to go back on strike. Absolutely 100%,” he told AFP. “By signing this thing, we’re not winning anything. If we go back to the strike, there’s an opportunity to win quite a bit.”
What the agreement contains
A tentative agreement between SAG-AFTRA and Hollywood studios to end the 118-day actors’ strike was agreed last month. It contained higher pay, better bonuses for starring in hit series or movies, and the first-ever protection against the use of artificial intelligence to replace human actors. It was ratified by union leadership two days later, though not unanimously.
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Since then, union leaders have held meetings and sent emails and social media posts to members urging them to approve the agreement. “This is the most lucrative, innovative and protective contract in entertainment union history,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a recent Instagram post.
But as details of the agreement emerged online, warnings about its flaws, particularly around the issue of artificial intelligence, began to circulate. The performers fear that they may soon be replaced by fully synthetic “actors” generated by artificial intelligence using body parts from many different people, whose images have been culled from film archives.
The deal does not prevent studios from using generative AI, but there is a clause requiring them to inform the union whenever the technology is used. SAG-AFTRA would then have the right to negotiate compensation on behalf of the actors involved — though critics say it would be difficult to determine who they are.
Actors also say the sheer number of viewers a show or movie needs to attract to trigger performer bonuses is too high for all but the highest echelon of hit shows.