Hollywood actors set vote to authorize strike with writers still out

FILE PHOTO: The iconic Hollywood sign is shown on a hillside above a neighborhood in Los Angeles California, U.S., February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood's actors union will announce Monday whether their members authorized a possible strike, a move that would turn up the heat on major film and television studios already grappling with a work stoppage by writers.

The SAG-AFTRA union set a Monday deadline for its 160,000 members to vote on whether to give their negotiators the power to call a strike if needed. Talks between the actors union and major studios are scheduled to start on Wednesday.

Over the weekend, the studios likely averted another work stoppage by reaching a tentative deal with the Directors Guild of America (DGA). That pact will take effect if DGA members vote to ratify it.

Actors, in their negotiations, will seek higher pay and safeguards against unauthorized use of their images through artificial intelligence. Their current deal expires June 30.

In a letter to members urging them to vote in favor of a strike authorization, SAG-AFTRA leaders said the industry had changed dramatically with the rise of streaming television and the emergence of new technology such as generative AI.

"We have fully entered a digital and streaming entertainment industry, and that demands a contract that is relevant to the new business model," the letter said.

A spokesperson for the Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents Walt Disney Co, Netflix Inc and other major studios, had no comment.

The month-long strike by more than 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has disrupted production of late-night shows and shut down high-profile projects including a new season of Netflix's "Stranger Things" and a "Game of Thrones" spinoff for Warner Bros Discovery's HBO.

An actors' strike would lead to a broader shutdown and increase pressure on studios that need programming to feed their streaming services and the fall TV broadcast schedule.

During the last WGA strike in 2007 and 2008, a studio deal with the DGA prompted writers to head back to the bargaining table.

On Friday, WGA negotiator Chris Keyser argued that would not be the case this time. "Any deal that puts this town back to work runs straight through the WGA, and there is no way around that," Keyser said in a video posted on YouTube.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)

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