'SNL' Editors Group Planning Strike, First in Show's History

After almost half a century on air, Saturday Night Live does not have many firsts left, but one of them could happen in April. A group of post-production editors who work on the venerable late-night sketch series is reportedly planning to strike after they and NBCUniversal were unable to reach an agreement. The group includes between 12 and 20 editors who work on the pre-filmed segments, which have become increasingly valuable to the show as viral hits.

The group has been negotiating with NBCUniversal through the Motion Picture Editors Guild (MPEG), IATSE Local 700, reports Variety. They plan to strike and set an April 1 deadline. Since the editors successfully organized with MPEG in October, there have been bargaining sessions with NBCU, but there are still major sticking points, including around health benefits. The union has been unsuccessful at getting the editors a contract to guarantee them fair pay. In the interim, they have been receiving the same health coverage without an agreement.

SNL editors are paid below industry standards. Assistant editors make hourly wages that are a fraction of what assistant editors get on union shows. NBCUniversal's wage proposals do not meet that gap, Variety notes. The studio is reportedly offering annual raises that still fall short of the industry-wide agreements. Management is also refusing retroactive pay.

Other SNL crewmembers have expressed support for their colleagues. Even some cast members wore shirts reading "Contract Now" during the Feb. 4 SNL episode's end credits. Sources told Variety that NBC is "committed" to reaching an agreement by the end of March.\

"Strikes are not funny, and it's also not funny that NBCU is driving us to take this step to guarantee fair pay and benefits for our members," MPEG president Alan Heim, ACE, said in a statement to Variety. "The fact is that these workers play a key role in making SNL the comedy institution that it is and they deserve the same standards as other workers on the show have. That is why we are thankful for all the outpouring of support they have received from other crafts and cast members on the show. This support is helping to ensure that management will eventually do the right thing."

MPEG also shared a statement on Twitter, accusing NBCU of "saying no to the union's reasonable proposals "by offering annual increases that lag behind industry standards, they're pushing for a deal that ignores the soaring cost of living & moves the crew backward in future years." They accused NBCU of refusing to give the editors "fair compensation... maintaining existing health benefits" and to show the team respect. "NBCU wants to shut us up – so we will yell louder," the union concluded. "Plan to join us on the picket line April 1st."

SNL is nearing the end of its 48th season. The next episode airs on Saturday, March 11, and features Jenna Ortega and The 1975 as guests. The series airs on NBC Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. ET and is available to stream on Peacock.