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‘Everybody is suffering’: Massachusetts SAG-AFTRA leaders react to suspended negotiations

Hollywood studios suspended negotiations with the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union, with the two sides still deeply divided on wages, artificial intelligence, streaming revenue and more.

SAG-AFTRA has been on strike since July, with actors refraining from working until a deal is reached.

For the 4,000 SAG-AFTRA members in Massachusetts, negotiations ending is troubling.

Andrea Lyman, the president of SAG-AFTRA’s New England Local, said she is disappointed that negotiations have stalled. She’s at a labor conference and was hoping she’d get to hear about an agreement while there and proudly wear her “SAG-AFTRA Strong” T-shirt.

Now, she’s hoping more than ever that studios will be “reasonable and logical.”

“They’re making billions,” she said. “Just pay us a living wage. That’s all we were asking for, a living wage. And when it comes to AI, what we want is compensation and consent. Don’t sell us without our consent and then show it in perpetuity. No, we want something reasonable.”

Michele Proude, SAG-AFTRA vice president of mid-sized locals and member of New England Local SAG-AFTRA, said the lack of negotiations affects many — from actors, to crew members, to business and locations where projects are filmed.

“Everybody is suffering because this is a big part of the economy in Massachusetts, the film industry,” she said. “Normally, this time of year, we have several productions going on right now.”

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said they suspended talks after the latest proposal from SAG-AFTRA Wednesday.

“After meaningful conversations, it is clear that the gap between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA is too great, and conversations are no longer moving us in a productive direction,” AMPTP said in a statement.

The AMPTP said SAG-AFTRA’s latest proposal would “would cost more than $800 million per year — which would create an untenable economic burden.”

Proude said many SAG-AFTRA members must take on side jobs outside of the industry to make ends meet. Many actors, she said, stay afloat by taking background work in film and TV productions when they are working to get more principal roles. Without jobs like these with the strike ongoing, many members will no longer be able to qualify for their health plan this year because they have not made the qualifying level of income at $26,500.

“People are getting other jobs, they’re doing Uber or GrubHub or Instacart, things like that, to try to make a little cash and sustain and in the meantime,” Proud said. “Doing support activities for the strike, whether here or traveling down to New York to actually walk the picket lines. But it’s a huge hit. It’s people’s jobs, it’s people’s livelihoods.”

She said she hopes studios will sit back down for negotiations so that they can come to a deal.

Lyman said actors plan to continue their fight.

“We are back to rallies,” she said. “We never stopped picketing, but we’re back to rallies and ready to get back to the table whenever it opens up again.”

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