Within days, a new three-year labor agreement between Hollywood’s actors and its film and TV companies may become official, but not before strong opposition has raised hopes for a close ratification vote.

Voting on the proposed agreement has been going on for a few weeks among SAG-AFTRA members, who collectively represent over 150,000 actors in movies and television. The voting is scheduled to conclude on Tuesday.

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After an unprecedented 118-day strike that almost stopped Hollywood earlier this year, stalling the production of everything from blockbuster films to network programs and streaming shows, the 129-page deal was made completely public shortly after Thanksgiving.

Following a 148-day strike, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which represents Hollywood screenwriters, unanimously endorsed its agreement in October. Without going on strike, the Directors Guild of America overwhelmingly accepted its contract in June.

Like SAG-AFTRA, the other two unions demanded greater base pay, a larger share of streaming income, and stronger regulations limiting the use of AI in media productions. WGA and SAG-AFTRA hadn’t staged simultaneous strikes since 1960 until this year.

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On November 10, the accord was approved by the actors union’s national board, which consists of over 70 members, with over 86% voting in favor. However, a loud minority of board members publicly criticized it.

Speaking on Saturday, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the main negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, stated that there is “no better alternative than to go forward with this agreement.”

“Is it flawless? No. However, it is ground-breaking and a contract that does what our members require of us with extremely large economic increases—more than the prior three negotiations combined—and it’s a foundation for future AI developments, according to Crabtree-Ireland. “We will be back at it in 2 ½ years.”

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The package, “valued at more than one billion dollars in new wages and benefit plan funding, is a landmark achievement for the union,” the board stated in a statement following the vote.

The statement read, “The agreement offers significant safeguards regarding the application of artificial intelligence, such as informed consent and payment for the production and usage of digital portraits of our members, both alive and dead, whether produced on set or under license.”

However, as information about the tentative agreement spread, some artists took to social media to draw attention to what they saw as inadequate safeguards surrounding AI, using the hashtag #SAGAFTRAvoteNO.

The AI rules, in the words of actor and SAG-AFTRA member Alex Plank, are “disappointing.” He had anticipated for strong limitations against the exploitation of actors’ likenesses to train AI models. “Producers are allowed to generate a synthetic performer and just have to notify SAG and bargain with the union over its use,” he said, referring to the proposed contract’s provision that would “allow synthetic performers to compete with human ones.”

Plank also took issue with a few of the pay clauses. He declared, “I don’t think what we got will necessarily help the average actor’s pay,” calling the requirements for qualifying for streaming residuals, a type of royalties, too stringent.

Fearing repercussions from their careers, three additional union members who talked with NBC News under pseudonyms expressed differing opinions about the labor agreement.


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