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The latest on the union strikes in Hollywood


The ongoing labor fight in Hollywood has a few new plot developments. Last night actors and others in the union SAG-AFTRA voted to authorize a strike ahead of upcoming contract negotiations. TV and film writers are already on strike against the major studios. And over the weekend, another powerful Hollywood union, the Directors Guild of America, reached a tentative deal. NPR culture correspondent Mandalit del Barco joins us now. Hey, Mandalit.


KELLY: OK, many, many strikes going on.


KELLY: Start with SAG-AFTRA, the actors not yet on strike. But I gather nearly 98% of members authorized one last night. What happened?

DEL BARCO: Well, this threat of a strike could be used as leverage, a tactic as the union negotiates with the major studios that are represented by the AMPTP, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Their contract ends June 30, and they start negotiations tomorrow. Now, SAG-AFTRA members want streaming services to pay them higher residuals when they rerun their shows, and they want protections against artificial intelligence that could replace their work. And that's very similar to what the writers are asking. Their union, the WGA, began striking against the studios more than a month ago. So it's very possible the writers will be joined by members of SAG-AFTRA, which, by the way, is a big union representing actors, stunt performers and even broadcast journalists like many of us here at NPR...

KELLY: Indeed.

DEL BARCO: ...Even though, Mary Louise, we're covered under a different contract than the TV and theatrical members. Already, you see a lot of actors on the picket lines in solidarity, even some directors.

KELLY: OK. Well, stay with the directors, though, because I mentioned the Directors Guild has now settled their contract. And this is weeks before their contract deadline. Where did that land? What'd they gain?

DEL BARCO: Well, the chair of the directors' negotiating committee is calling this three-year film and TV contract historic. But remember; it still needs final approval by its members and its board. The DGA represents 19,000 directors, assistant and associate directors, unit production managers and stage managers, and their new deal would give them a 12.5% wage increase over the next three years. They'd get 76% more residuals from shows that get re-aired internationally. There's a new parental leave benefit, a ban of live ammunition on sets and an agreement that AI cannot replace their work. It's really interesting to note, though, that unlike the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, the DGA members did not authorize a strike during their negotiations.

KELLY: OK. How are writers and actors, their unions, reacting to this news of a deal for the Directors Guild? - because I'm remembering that some of their members have hoped for a united front against the studios.

DEL BARCO: That's right. Well, both unions officially congratulated the DGA on their tentative contract, but they also said this new deal doesn't change their own goals. The actors and the writers say they have specific needs, some different from the directors. For example, writers say they're often used - asked to work for free in what are called mini rooms. You know, on the picket line outside CBS, I met up with WGA'S negotiating committee co-chair Chris Keyser, and he told me that the writers never really expected the directors to join them in striking against the studios. In fact, the directors have only ever been on strike once. And that was in 1987, and it lasted all of five minutes on the West Coast. Keyser told me the timing of this tentative deal was a deliberate strategy by the AMPTP.

CHRIS KEYSER: They clearly thought that making a deal with the DGA was going to be a weapon to try to undermine our solidarity and our sense of determination. That's not going to work. The same thing is true for SAG. We wish them the best. We hope they get the best contract they can. But in the end, we're going to stay out as long as we need until they decide that it's time to come back and talk to us.

DEL BARCO: So the DGA deal probably means there won't be a three-headed union strike that was hoped for by some. But already the writers strike has interrupted or shut down a lot of Hollywood productions. So most directors, actors, writers and everyone else in this business are already not working.

KELLY: Well, I thank you for your work in this summer of strikes, Mandalit. Thank you.

DEL BARCO: Thank you so much.

KELLY: That's NPR culture correspondent Mandalit del Barco.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHYGIRL SONG, "HEAVEN (FT. TINASHE)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.