Federal Mediators and Last-Minute Calls: Where We Stand Hours Away from Looming SAG-AFTRA Strike

UPDATE, 9:00 P.M. ET: SAG-AFTRA has agreed to a federal mediator in negotiations with the AMPTP, but the deadline for negotiations remains until Wednesday, July 12 at midnight PT / 3 a.m. ET.

“We will not be distracted from negotiating in good faith to secure a fair and just deal by the expiration of our agreement,” the guild said in a statement. “We are committed to the negotiating process and will explore and exhaust every possible opportunity to make a deal, however we are not confident that the employers have any intention of bargaining toward an agreement.”

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We’re a little under 36 hours away from SAG-AFTRA’s current contract with the film and TV studios expiring and the guild having the power to call for a work stoppage. With the writers now in the third month of their own strike, the possibility of the first dual-union strike in over 60 years is looming large and has Hollywood on edge.

Suffice it to say, it has been a tense and frantic couple of days leading up to the deadline, one that has already been extended from June 30 and is now set to terminate on July 12 at 11:59 p.m. PT. If you asked folks a few days ago, the mood around whether a strike was going to happen was a lot different.

But according to multiple reports and first reported in Variety, agency heavyweights Ari Emanuel of WME, Bryan Lourd of CAA, and Jeremy Zimmer of UTA have all made last-minute phone calls to SAG-AFTRA leadership in an attempt to offer assistance as mediators in the hopes of averting a strike.

What’s more, Variety was first to report that the AMPTP proposed bringing in a federal mediator via the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to help continue brokering a deal. Top studio leaders including Bob Iger at Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos reportedly met on Monday morning in a conference call to approve the idea from the AMPTP and lead negotiator Carol Lombardini.

SAG-AFTRA in its statement disputed the report from Variety as inaccurate and suggested the AMPTP leaked information to the press about a federal mediator before the guild’s negotiators were told.

“We condemn the tactic outlined in today’s inaccurate Variety piece naming the CEOs of several entertainment conglomerates as the force behind the request for mediation; information that was leaked to the press by the CEOs and their ‘anonymous sources’ before our negotiators were even told of the request for mediation,” SAG-AFTRA wrote. “The AMPTP has abused our trust and damaged the respect we have for them in this process. We will not be manipulated by this cynical ploy to engineer an extension when the companies have had more than enough time to make a fair deal.”

Though there’s a media blackout between both sides, multiple industry media reports have suggested that negotiations have been slow in the last few days since the prior extension, and that a higher residual based on a metric of a show or film’s performance as well as protections for actors around AI have been key sticking points.

That’s not all that’s been floating out there in the last few days. IndieWire confirmed that SAG-AFTRA leadership held a conference call with top Hollywood publicists on Monday informing them of strike rules their clients should follow in the event of a strike. SAG-AFTRA has not formally sent strike rules to its 160,000+ membership informing them on protocols during a strike, but that could happen imminently if a strike is called.

Among the strike rules and best practices, actors would not be allowed to participate in promotional work of any kind. That would include not participating in press junkets, attending film premieres or appearing on panels at the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con.

While many major studios had already pulled out of Comic-Con, Deadline reported that premieres such as for “Haunted Mansion,” which is planned for this Saturday at Disneyland, are making last-minute adjustments in the event of a strike. Other upcoming movies this summer have already planned their press junkets and premieres well in advance of a potential strike, such as with “Barbie” or “Oppenheimer.”

And as for the Emmys, which announce their nominees on Wednesday morning, Variety reported that the TV Academy and broadcaster Fox are debating whether to postpone the Emmys in the event of a strike, but are torn between either delaying it to November or January.

SAG-AFTRA has been clear that it is prepping for a strike, posting photos of members preparing picket signs, and there have been reports that the guild has asked for volunteers for strike organizers. Some of those same members were also critical of SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, who was photographed in Italy alongside Kim Kardashian as part of her responsibilities to promote Dolce and Gabbana.

While the writers have managed to shut down much of TV production over the last two and a half months, an actors strike would lead to a total shutdown of the industry across both film and television. There was the possibility of a three-pronged union strike, but the Directors Guild of America members ratified a deal of their own last month.

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