The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the dominant union representing Hollywood's actors, has moved a step closer to a strike that could cripple TV and film production in the US entertainment capital.
SAG announced that it would be sending strike ballots to its 120,000 plus members Jan 2, seeking the 75 percent approval rating that would allow the union to call a strike.
The votes will be tabulated Jan 23, the union said in a press release.
SAG has been working without a contract since June and is the last Hollywood union without a new deal. It is holding out for higher payments for Internet productions and for increased benefits for actors when external events such as an earthquake or a strike by another union stops production.
The screenwriters' guild reached a deal earlier this year after a lengthy strike that cost the Los Angeles economy an estimated $3 billion.
The producers' umbrella group the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers claims that the actors have already foregone 37 million dollars in increased payments by not agreeing to a similar deal.
But SAG President Alan Rosenberg said that the future of his members in the digital industry was at stake.
"SAG members must understand that their futures as professional actors are at stake, and I believe that SAG members will evaluate the AMPTP's June 30 offer and vote to send us back to the table with the threat of a strike," Rosenberg said. "A yes vote sends a strong message that we are serious about fending off rollbacks and getting what is fair for actors in new media."
The AMPTP denounced the move. "SAG members are going to be asked to bail out a failed negotiating strategy by going on strike during one of the worst economic crises in history," said the umbrella organization of Hollywood producers.
"We hope that working actors will study our contract offer carefully and come to the conclusion that no strike can solve the problems that have been created by SAG's own failed negotiation strategy."