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Hollwyood Actors: Losing Their Steam To Strike?

Screen Actors Guild
Screen Actors Guild

With the Screen Actors Guild leadership pushing for its members to vote to authorize a strike, Hollywood has been buzzing about how bad another work stoppage would be for the industry at this already precarious economic time. Now, it's looking less and less likely that the actors' guild will actually vote to strike.

More than 130 of Hollywood's biggest stars—from George Clooney and Tom Hanks to Charlize Theron and Sally Field—released a letter Monday publicly opposing a strike authorization vote by the guild. Citing the weak economy, the letter urged the guild's leaders to accept the studios' contract proposal and worry about getting better contract terms in three years when all the guilds' contracts come up for renewal.

This letter hit the web just as SAG President Alan Rosenberg met with SAG members in New York city, looking for support for a strike authorization vote. It comes just a few days after the board of SAG's New York branch issued a statement asking the union's national leadership to call off its strike authorization vote, also drawing attention to the weak economy.

The 120,000-member union's contract with the producer's association (the AMPTP) expired June 30 and since then actors have been working under heir old contract. SAG has been pushing for more gains in terms of digital and DVD revenues than its sister unions and after months of standstill last week said it would send out a strike authorization vote in January. The union plans to mail ballots on January 2nd, and if 75 percent of those who return their ballots vote "yes", that would allow SAG leadership to call a strike at any point. SAG's Rosenberg insists strike authorization would merely be leverage, and that he wouldn't actually call a strike. Others are skeptical.

Another blow to SAG; on Tuesday News Corp said it was exploring a shift of some of its existing TV series from SAG to AFTRA. After both unions attacked the move Fox retracted that statement, but bottom line, News Corp is open to reconsidering business as usual. At very least, News Corp's 20th Century Fox confirmed it wants pilots for its new shows in the spring to be produced with actors in the AFTRA guild, whose contract was negotiated months ago, and not SAG.

The longer this stalemate continues, the more studios like Fox are sure to look for other, non-SAG options.

    • SAG faction wants strike vote suspended

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.