SAG-AFTRA responds to studios' 'last, best and final offer' as actors' strike drags on

BURBANK, CA - NOVEMBER 01: SAG-AFTRA shut down all other picket locations for one massive "Unity Picket" on strike day 111 at Walt Disney Studios on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023 in Burbank, CA. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
SAG-AFTRA members walk during a"Unity Picket" at Walt Disney Studios. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

SAG-AFTRA has responded to what the alliance representing the major Hollywood studios characterized as its "last, best and final" offer to end the actors' strike.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said Monday afternoon in a statement that its negotiating team "formally" answered the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers' latest proposal earlier that day.

"Please know every member of our TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee is determined to secure the right deal and thereby bring this strike to an end responsibly," the guild said. "There are several essential items on which we still do not have an agreement, including AI. We will keep you informed as events unfold."

The AMPTP did not immediately respond to The Times' request for comment.

Read more: Actors' strike ends: The SAG-AFTRA deal, what happened and what's next

The latest development in the strike saga follows a push by the studios and the guild in recent weeks to resolve the walkout, which has caused widespread production delays and put thousands of industry professionals out of work.

Since Oct. 24, the union and the AMPTP have held frequent meetings, going back and forth during what strike captain Terry Wilkerson recently described as "a game of tennis."

Among the key items yet to be resolved as of last Wednesday were concerns regarding artificial intelligence and streaming residuals. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA's national executive director and chief negotiator, told The Times last week that although talks had been productive and things were "moving in the right direction" the sides were "still far from an agreement."

Read more: SAG-AFTRA reviewing what studios say is their 'last, best and final offer' to end strike

“We’ve been talking a lot about artificial intelligence," Crabtree-Ireland said at the time.

"That’s clearly an area where we have some differences that are pretty significant. And so we're working hard on that. ... There are a number of open issues, so I hesitate to focus in on any one specific one ... but AI is definitely an area of major concern.”

The guild and the entertainment companies appeared to be making progress on key issues as they inched closer to a deal midway through last week. A source close to the studios who was not authorized to comment said last Wednesday that the entertainment companies saw a clear path to a deal and were optimistic that a tentative agreement could be reached soon.

Read more: Striking actors hold massive rally in Los Angeles as negotiations progress closer to a deal

Crabtree-Ireland struck a more cautious tone during a massive rally outside the Disney studio lot in Burbank last week.

“It's really hard to predict the time because some of the remaining issues are, as you might imagine, some of the most intractable," he told The Times.

"So how long will it take to get through them? I'm really not sure. If the studios came to the table with the kind of mind-set that we would like, we could easily resolve this in a matter of days. Whether that will happen is hard to say.”

Over the weekend, SAG-AFTRA's negotiating committee informed members in a statement that it was reviewing what the AMPTP presented as its "last, best and final offer." The committee vowed to continue deliberating on Monday after analyzing and discussing the studios' proposal all day Sunday "and well into the night."

Read more: Fran Drescher is SAG-AFTRA’s 'Norma Rae.’ But the 100-day actors' strike poses new challenges

The AMPTP delivered its latest offer to the guild's negotiating committee on Friday, and top company executives discussed the proposal over Zoom on Saturday.

Outlined in the AMPTP's most recent offer were improved pay parameters — including a higher bonus for successful streaming shows — according to sources close to the studios who were not authorized to comment.

The studios pressed the guild to respond in a timely manner — so they could make critical decisions about when to restart production — but stopped short of setting a firm deadline, according to two studio sources.

Read more: Striking actors latest scare tactic? Halloween pickets and clever costumes

The union and the entertainment company alliance have both faced internal and external pressure in recent days to arrive at a settlement soon.

On Saturday, Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian issued a statement urging the parties to approach their upcoming meetings “with maximum urgency” and warned that "failure to reach a settlement now will endanger the gains that so many in the industry and in government fought so hard for."

“The importance of the motion picture and television industry to our region cannot be overstated,” he said.

When the guild shared its picket schedule for the upcoming week on Sunday, the call to action was met with a mix of support and scrutiny on social media. Some enthusiastically reaffirmed their commitment to the cause, while others vented their frustrations about the prolonged work stoppage.

Read more: Thousands of actors sign letter declaring they'd 'rather stay on strike than take a bad deal'

Last month, more than 5,500 guild members signed an open letter voicing their support for the negotiating committee and declaring they would rather "stay on strike than take a bad deal." The letter was drafted partially in response to what some viewed as a misbegotten effort by George Clooney and other A-listers to help SAG-AFTRA move negotiations along, according to strike captain Kate Bond.

Among the missive's most prominent signatories were Daniel Dae Kim, Camila Cabello, Daveed Diggs, Debra Messing, Gina Rodriguez, Jon Hamm, Lena Dunham, LeVar Burton, Mark Ruffalo, Sarah Paulson and Pedro Pascal.

"We have not come all this way to cave now," the letter stated.

"In any union, there will always be a minority who are not willing to make temporary sacrifices for the greater good. But we, the majority who voted overwhelmingly to authorize this strike, are still standing in solidarity, ready to strike as long as it takes and to endure whatever we must in order to win a deal that is worthy of our collective sacrifice."

Times staff writers Wendy Lee and Meg James contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.