Actors are working under a contract which expired last month
The governing board of the Screen Actors Guild is being urged to ballot its members over strike action.
Contract talks between the actors' union and Hollywood studios are at a deadlock, after the latest pay deal was rejected in July.
Those negotiating on behalf of SAG's 120,000 members are calling for a ballot. They want the board to back a strike, calling it "unavoidable".
Industrial action will go ahead if 75% of balloted members vote for action.
"A strike authorisation vote of the membership is necessary to overcome the employers' intransigence," the negotiating panel told the board.
The call for the strike vote brought a prompt response from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios.
"Is this really the time for anyone associated with the entertainment business to be talking about going on strike?" the statement asked.
"Not only is the business suffering from recent economic conditions, but if ever there was a time when Americans wanted the diversions of movies and television, it is now."
SAG wants more money for actors when their work is released on DVD, plus a greater say in the endorsement of products on-air.
In July, sister union the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists approved a new prime-time TV contract with studios.
But a similar deal - which would boost the minimum wages of members by 3.5% in the first year of the contract, 3% in the second and 3.5% in the third - was rejected by SAG.
The studios recently rejected calls by SAG for new talks.
"The DGA, WGA and AFTRA reached agreement on comparable terms months ago, during far better economic times, and it is unrealistic for SAG negotiators now to expect even better terms during this grim financial climate.
"This is the harsh economic reality, and no strike will change that reality."
In the absence of a new contract, SAG is working to the terms of an old deal, which expired on 30 June.
But Hollywood has slipped into a "de facto strike", with major studios halting most of their film production to avoid the possibility of costly labour disruptions.