That could become a viable option for the media companies if they can't come to terms with the Screen Actors Guild. As reported by Variety, July 7 is shaping up to be the key date. That's when AFTRA, the smaller actors union, is expected to announce the results of a ratification vote on its new contract. SAG, whose contract expires on June 30, has been trying to convince AFTRA members to vote no, but that's unlikely to happen. If the deal is ratified, there would be enormous pressure on SAG to cut bait and get what it can. The guild can always strike, of course, but the union has yet to even take a strike authorization vote.
Once the [AFTRA] results are announced, the congloms are likely to make a “last, best and final” offer to SAG, leading in short order either to a deal or a possible lockout by the companies. Though the lockout strategy is risky for the congloms from a PR standpoint, taking such a step would preempt SAG from pulling the plug later on, with features and series in mid-production, via a strike. For now, the landscape’s already unsettled in TV — although, in an unintended result of the writers strike, the work stoppage may have helped the nets’ contingency plans for a potential SAG strike. That’s because some shows weren’t brought back in midseason, giving the nets and studios a jump on fall. As a result, skeins like NBC’s “Heroes” and ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money” were able to start shooting in early May.
At the moment, the projects most impacted by the air of uncertainty are pilots scheduled for shooting in July. In these cases, studios may decide it’s not worth spending the money necessary to prep a pilot only to have to pull the plug in the event of a strike. (There’s no word yet of any pilots having been postponed.) And though major studio pics will grind to a halt, there’s plenty of activity on the indie feature front. Productions that have obtained a SAG waiver (or guaranteed completion contract) can shoot even if there’s a strike.
Here's what AFTRA told its members on Monday:
“Don’t be fooled by spin. AFTRA, like the WGA and DGA before it, has negotiated a great agreement that delivers substantial improvements in wages and working conditions for all its members. We’ve done this in the midst of a challenging economic climate, at a moment of rapid and unsettling technological change, in an industry that is still recovering from the economic devastation of a 100-day strike. This is a time for tough-minded realism, not posturing and empty rhetoric. If you vote against ratifying the AFTRA deal, you are essentially voting for chaos in the industry.”