SAG-AFTRA, the labor union representing thousands of entertainment professionals, said Saturday it was backing the Writers Guild of America (WGA) as the latter continues to negotiate with major Hollywood studios in an effort to avoid a strike.
In a statement, SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 industry workers like actors, producers, and managers, said it "stands strongly in support and solidarity with the members of the Writers Guild of America who are engaged in contract negotiations with the [Hollywood studios]." The union added that it is "long past time for the studios, streamers, and other employers in the entertainment industry to remove roadblocks to fair and equitable wages and working conditions."
The support from SAG-AFTRA shores up a key alliance for the WGA, which is currently negotiating with studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The WGA represents approximately 11,500 film and television screenwriters, but its current contract with AMPTP expires on May 1, at which point writers across the industry will likely go on strike. This could potentially put thousands of jobs on hold, bringing Hollywood to a near-standstill.
The WGA says is seeking a pay scale that is more in line with the change in the entertainment industry that has come with the streaming era. A recent report from the WGA said that half of all television writers are being paid industry minimums, up from just 33 percent a decade ago. The WGA is also seeking a number of other changes, including better health benefits for its writers.
While SAG-AFTRA's backing of the WGA is important, that union is itself working on drafting its own new contract with AMPTP, as its current deal expires June 30. These talks are "expected to be equally momentous," The Hollywood Reporter noted, but so far SAG-AFTRA "has been quiet about its priorities."