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SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher is preparing members for the union’s upcoming negotiations, which will be “a turning point for us all.”
In a member message sent on Friday, the union leader and multi-hyphenate told members that in the group’s upcoming labor negotiations, “we must focus on modernizing our outdated and conservative contract.” Drescher continued, “It is essential that we reshape our agreement to better reflect the new digital and streaming business model that is rapidly changing our industry.”
SAG-AFTRA’s negotiations with the Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP), the group negotiating for studios and streamers, are scheduled to begin on June 7, prior to the union’s contract expiring on June 30. The union of around 160,000 performers — including actors, stunt performers, singers, dancers and broadcast journalists — is widely expected to be tackling working condition and compensation issues that have festered as the streaming era has matured over the past few years in these talks, just as the Writers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America are during this cycle.
In her message, Drescher reminded union members of the preparations that the union has taken to get ready for negotiations up until this point, including hosting meetings with members nationwide over wages and working conditions and presentations by individual Locals over top issues for their membership. After these meetings, the union’s wages and working conditions plenary committee, assisted by SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez, reviewed “every single submission” over the course of “an unprecedented seven days,” Drescher added.
“It was important to us all that we had a complete understanding of the wants and needs of all the members, each of whom will be profoundly impacted by the outcome of this negotiation,” Drescher said, adding that she believes the union is forming a “tight, innovative and aggressive negotiating package.”
SAG-AFTRA has not yet publicly stated what its top priorities will be once negotiations with the AMPTP begin in June, but regulation of artificial intelligence and boosts in wages are generally expected to be on the docket. During the ongoing writers’ strike, the union has been supportive of the WGA’s demands, encouraging members to join the picket lines on off-hours and to post in favor of the guild on social media.
Drescher briefly raised some writer and performer hackles on social media earlier in the week when she said in a video interview on the WGA picket lines of SAG-AFTRA’s priorities in its upcoming negotiation, “I don’t think what’s very important to writers, and I’m a writer too, in the WGA, is the kind of stuff we’re going after.” Drescher later made an addendum to those comments in a radio interview, saying entertainment unions were “all cogs in the same wheel” and that “serious and significant adjustments have to be made to the contract because the whole business model of the industry has changed.”
Drescher concluded her message by noting there has never been a better time to “be fearless and forward-thinking in our bargaining approach.” She added, “This is a turning point for us all and what happens now will define our future. Get ready everyone. The future is NOW!”
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