Hollywood’s labor problems might not be quite over.
Following extended strikes from the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) last year, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), which represents musicians throughout the entertainment industry, is about to begin negotiating a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
Talks are set to begin Monday and while it’s still the absolute beginning of a long process, the union has certainly learned from its predecessors. As talks get underway, the union plans a rally, with members marching in front of the AMPTP headquarters.
“It’s our turn to negotiate a fair and sustainable contract for our members—just like our fellow unions WGA and SAG-AFTRA did.,” the union said in a statement.
Member interest is seemingly running high. A site the AFM set up to keep members informed has already crashed. A message saying “Bandwidth Limit Exceeded” was all that popped up when visiting the site afmfairshareformusicians.org earlier Monday. (The site is now operating normally once again.)
Obviously, a strike is the worst-case scenario—and Hollywood doesn’t want to risk another shutdown if it can avoid it. The timing on AFM’s part is rather masterful, though. Should the two sides fail to reach an agreement, that could cause problems when the Academy Awards are scheduled to be held. (The show is slated to take place on March 10, with nominations being announced Tuesday morning.)
Many of AFM’s demands are familiar ones after the previous two strikes. The union says it’s fighting for residual payments for streaming content, better wages and healthcare, improved working conditions, and protections against artificial intelligence capturing and using member work without permission/compensation. Of particular concern for the union is made-for-streaming programming, which does not produce residuals for musicians.
“The AFM has been getting ready for this moment for some time,” the group said. “Over the last year, AFM Fair Share for Musicians has internally organized and held town hall conversations with rank-and-file bargaining unit members to ensure this contract reflects the diversity of our needs and aspirations. . . . Now is the time for our biggest display of collective action, yet.”
An AMPTP spokesperson, in a statement to Fast Company, said it “looks forward to productive negotiations with the Federation, with the goal of concluding an agreement that will ensure an active year ahead for the industry and recognize the value that musicians add to motion pictures and television.”
The WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes cost Hollywood more than $6 billion in lost wages and other business impacts. Major awards shows, such as the Emmys, were postponed and film and television release schedules were severely disrupted.
The AFM has approximately 70,000 members in the U.S. and Canada. Tino Gagliardi, the union’s president and chief negotiator, told CNN that AFM “is going to be prepared to do whatever it needs to get what we have to have, in order to make the lives of musicians better.”
Should AMPTP settle issues with the musician’s union, they’ve still got one more potential headache to worry about. The contract for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents over 170,000 production crew members, is set to expire in July—and that group hasn’t ruled out a strike either.