SAG, representing more than 120,000 actors in movies, television and other media, said in a statement that it will launch a "full-scale education campaign in support of a strike authorization."
Talks broke down after the studios sought the right to create productions for new media, such as the Internet, using nonunion actors and without paying residuals, said Doug Allen, SAG national executive director and chief negotiator.
Residuals are payments to actors that are made every time a production airs, such as TV reruns. Many SAG members rely on residuals for more than half of their income, Allen said.
"They're asking us to bless a system we believe would be the beginning of the end of residuals and that's a very scary thought for working actors," he said.
The producers' alliance condemned the SAG decision and said it remains the only major Hollywood guild without a labor deal this year.
"Now, SAG is bizarrely asking its members to bail out the failed negotiating strategy with a strike vote - at a time of historic economic crisis," a producers' statement said. "The tone-deafness of SAG is stunning."
SAG's national board has already authorized its negotiating committee to call for a strike authorization vote if mediation failed. The vote would take more than a month and require more than 75 percent approval to pass.
SAG wants union coverage for all Internet-only productions regardless of budget and residual payments for Internet productions replayed online, as well as continued actor protections during work stoppages.
But the AMPTP said it was untenable for SAG to demand a better deal than what writers, directors and another actors union accepted earlier in the year, especially now that the economy has worsened. Earlier this week, the producers' group said it had reached its sixth labor deal this year, a tentative agreement on a three-year contract with the local branches of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts, accounting for 35,000 workers.
The stagehands alliance accepted Internet provisions that were modeled on agreements with other unions, the producers group said.
Actors in prime-time television shows and movies have been working under the terms of a contract that expired June 30, with the hope of avoiding a repeat of the 100-day writers strike which shut down production of dozens of TV shows and cost the Los Angeles area economy an estimated $2.5 billion.