May 20, 2024

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher on Monday scolded “naysayers” and “contrarians” who have criticized the union’s new contract.

Drescher defended the agreement during a Zoom meeting for SAG-AFTRA members on Monday morning.

“Sadly there have been some naysayers who have exploited this momentum of ours,” Drescher said, appearing in a bathrobe from her home. She said that throughout the negotiation, some people have “tried to tear down what was being done in the negotiating committee.”

The negotiating team reached a tentative deal last Wednesday that ended the union’s 118-day strike. The union’s national board approved the deal on an 86% vote on Friday, and sent it to the members for ratification.

The ratification process began Monday with the Zoom meeting to spell out the terms of the deal and take questions.

At the outset, Drescher urged the membership to listen carefully to the details, “if you haven’t yet been poisoned by contrarians.”

Drescher appeared to be alluding to Justine Bateman, the filmmaker and former “Family Ties” star, who tweeted several criticisms of the artificial intelligence provisions of the deal over the weekend.

“I’m very disappointed that the SAG leadership and committee did not take my guidance on the #AI issues,” Bateman wrote.

SAG-AFTRA sought broad protections against the use of AI to create “digital replicas” without actors’ consent and compensation. The final deal includes many provisions the union demanded, but not all.

In particular, the deal allows AI models to “train” on actors’ performances to create synthetic, or “Frankenstein,” characters. Actors will be allowed to prevent that only if the final output includes the actors’ recognizable facial features.

The union sought to give itself a veto over the use of AI to create synthetic performances. But in the end, the union got only “notice” for such use.

In her tweets, Bateman argued that allowing synthetic performers is “anathema” to a union contract.

“This is akin to SAG giving a thumbs-up for studios/streamers using non-union actors,” she wrote. “I find it baffling that a union representing human actors would give approval of those same actors being replaced by an AI Object.”

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief negotiator, defended the AI terms of the deal in the Monday Zoom meeting.

“There are some aspects of this agreement that aren’t perfect,” he said. “This negotiating team fought so hard to get the best possible protections in artificial intelligence. We all play our hand. This hand that we have played from our perspective achieves what we set out.”

At beginning of the meeting, Drescher also offered “Buddhist wisdom” to center the conversation.

“A good solider is not violent,” she said. “A good fighter is not angry. A good winner is not vengeful. A good employer is humble.”


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