SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher Tells ‘GMA’ Contract Talks Making Headway “In Some Areas”, But “In Some Areas We’re Not”

SAG-AFTRA’s negotiations for a new contract are making headway “in some areas” but not in others, Fran Drescher, the guild’s president, said in an interview today on ABC’s Good Morning America.  

“We do have unprecedented support from the union members where, if we feel like we’re not making headway when the contract expires, which is June 30th at 11:59 p.m. [PT], we’re gonna have to strike,” she said. (Watch the interview below.)

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“Are you making headway?” asked host Michael Strahan.

“You know, in some areas we are, and in some areas we’re not. So we just have to see. I mean, in earnest, it would be great if we can walk away with a deal that we want. And at the end of the day, you know, we’re living in a time that’s very different from the last few decades when the foundation of the contract was forged. It’s the digital age now and the age of streaming, and it’s a whole different business model. So it really begs that we stand firm and hold strong and do right by the members in this industry and honor the massive contribution that they make. So I’m really in it to win it on behalf of our 180,000 members. And we stand by the Writers Guild, too.”

On June 5, SAG-AFTRA members voted 98% in favor of authorizing a strike if the contract talks fail to reach an acceptable deal.

RELATED: SAG-AFTRA Factions Form Unity Slate To Re-Elect President Fran Drescher & Secretary-Treasurer Joely Fisher In Rare Show Of Solidarity

On Saturday, Drescher and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the guild’s national executive director, posted a video in which they told their members that the guild’s contract negotiations have been “extremely productive” and that they “remain optimistic” that a fair deal can be reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Since then, however, more than 1,000 actors – including many prominent SAG-AFTRA members – signed off on a letter to guild leaders saying that they’re “prepared to strike” if the guild doesn’t “get all the way there” during talks with the studios. Drescher herself even signed the letter.

RELATED: SAG-AFTRA “Prepared To Strike” Letter Hits 1,000 Signatures, Including Guild President Fran Drescher

Prior to the strike authorization vote, the guild laid out some of its key bargaining issues, which include “economic fairness, residuals, regulating the use of artificial intelligence and alleviating the burdens of the industry-wide shift to self-taping.”

With respect to economic fairness, the guild said: “Outdated contract terms, coupled with the evolution of the media business, including shorter season orders and longer hiatuses between seasons makes it increasingly difficult for our members to achieve and maintain a middle class lifestyle working as a performer. In sharp contrast to the diminishing compensation paid to our members, the studios are posting immense profits with a bullish outlook as demonstrated by lavish corporate executive compensation.

“SAG-AFTRA is committed to ensuring our members are able to make a living performing in scripted dramatic live action entertainment. This means ensuring increased compensation when our members work, shoring up the funding of our Health, Retirement, and Pension Plans, and providing our members a meaningful share of the economic value created by their performances.”

As for residuals, the guild said that “While new business models mean that more and more SAG-AFTRA content is monetized around the globe, residuals payments are failing to reflect the economic value of this exhibition. SAG-AFTRA is committed to ensuring residual payments both reflect the economic value of our members’ contribution, and serve as a meaningful source of performer earnings.

With respect to AI, the guild said: “Artificial intelligence has already proven to be a real and immediate threat to the work of our members and can mimic members’ voices, likenesses and performances. We must get agreement around acceptable uses, bargain protections against misuse, and ensure consent and fair compensation for the use of your work to train AI systems and create new performances. In their public statements and policy work, the companies have not shown a desire to take our members’ basic rights to our own voices and likenesses seriously.”

Self-taped auditions, meanwhile, “are unregulated and out of control,” the guild said. “Too many pages, too little time and unreasonable requirements have made self-taping auditions a massive, daily, uncompensated burden on the lives of performers. Reasonable rules and limitations, and access to other casting formats, are sorely needed to ensure fair access to work opportunities and protect performers against exploitation.”

The guild also said that “Many other important issues, including those specific to particular careers and categories, will be on the table as well.”

Here is Drescher’s GMA interview:

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