American Actors Union Approves Contract with Hollywood Studios

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) has voted in favour of approving a three-year deal with major Hollywood studios, that could impact similar negotiations in process with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which has been embroiled in difficult talks for months.

Hollywood and the actors’ unions are hoping to avoid a lockout similar to last year’s writers’ strike, which cost the American entertainment industry and the city of Los Angeles anywhere from $500 million to $2.1 billion in lost revenue.

Members of Hollywood actors unions approved a new three-year contract in a vote that was closely watched in Hollywood as an indication of whether the larger Screen Actors Guild will be able to continue pressing for a better deal in its own contentious labor talks with film and television producers.

Members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists approved their new contract with a 62.4% majority. In recent weeks, the Aftra vote became something of a referendum on the actors’ desire to continue negotiating for a better contract with the studios, as the two unions share about 44,000 members. SAG, currently embroiled in difficult talks with Hollywood studios, campaigned vigorously against the new Aftra deal as a means of demonstrating that its members are willing to aggressively pursue better terms in their own contract — even on the heels of a crippling 100-day strike by screenwriters last winter.

Aftra members approved the new contract by a lower margin than in the past, when contracts were jointly negotiated with SAG. The lower approval margin is bound to be interpreted by some as a sign that SAG’s leadership has significant support to continue pushing the studios for a better deal. Others will declare the vote is a rebuke of the rival union’s leadership and a sign SAG might have to settle.

As a result, the SAG contract won’t get resolved for some time. SAG hasn’t yet called for a strike-authorization vote, despite the June 30 expiration of its contract. But its members possibly could be locked out by movie and TV producers if negotiations don’t quickly progress.

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