SAG-AFTRA went on strike in July for its ongoing labor dispute with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), joining the WGA (Writers Guild of America) strike that started in May. The AMPTP includes major studios such as Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and more. Now, SAG-AFTRA is prepared to strike against the video game companies including Activision, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Insomniac Games, Take 2 Productions, and more with its announcement to send a strike authorization vote to SAG-AFTRA members.
Today’s announcement reveals that the SAG-AFTRA’s National Board has voted unanimously to send a strike authorization vote to SAG-AFTRA members. The members of the national board include actors like SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher (The Nanny), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), Matthew Modine (Stranger Things), Michael Rapaport (True Romance), Sharon Stone (Total Recall) and many more.
It’s been almost a year since the SAG-AFTRA’s video game contract, the Interactive Media Agreement, was extended beyond its original expiration date. The union wants the video game companies to take care of terms needed for SAG-AFTRA members.
The video game companies in the contract include:
- Activision Productions Inc.,
- Blindlight LLC,
- Disney Character Voices Inc.,
- Electronic Arts Productions Inc.,
- Epic Games, Inc.,
- Formosa Interactive LLC,
- Insomniac Games Inc.,
- Take 2 Productions Inc.,
- VoiceWorks Productions Inc., and
- WB Games Inc.
During these negotiations, the terms still have not been met, and bargaining will resume on September 26th. With the negotiating committee and National Board unanimously agreeing on a member-approved strike authorization, that means SAG-AFTRA actors could go on strike against video game companies.
Even though The Interactive Media (Video Game) Agreement is a separate contract from the TV, theatrical and streaming contracts, there are similarities including wages to keep up with inflation and protections against unrestrained use of artificial intelligence.
“Here we go again! Now our Interactive (Video Game) Agreement is at a stalemate too. Once again we are facing employer greed and disrespect. Once again artificial intelligence is putting our members in jeopardy of reducing their opportunity to work. And once again, SAG-AFTRA is standing up to tyranny on behalf of its members,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher. “The overlap of these two SAG-AFTRA contracts is no coincidence, but rather a predictable issue impacting our industry as well as others all over the world. The disease of greed is spreading like wildfire ready to burn workers out of their livelihoods and humans out of their usefulness. We at SAG-AFTRA say NO! Not on our watch!”
Performance capture is a big part of the Interactive Media Agreement, and it discusses how video game companies capture the digital performances of trained professionals and stunt performers and how they could use AI and data in the future when the performers are no longer needed.
SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland explained, “The voice and performance capture artists who bring video game characters to life deserve a contract that reflects the value they bring to the multibillion-dollar gaming industry. Voice and performance capture AI are already among the most advanced uses of AI: the threat is here and it is real. Without contractual protections, the employers are asking performers to unknowingly participate in the extinction of their artistry and livelihoods.”
The union wants SAG-AFTRA video game performers to get the same treatment as their film and television counterparts in regards to wage increases: “11% retroactive to expiration and 4% increases in the second and third years of the agreement — necessary for members’ wages to keep up with inflation.”
SAG-AFTRA is also asking that on-camera performers get the same five-minute break for every hour performed as their off-camera performers. Other terms include “a set medic present when stunts or hazardous work is performed, just like on a film or television set; prohibitions against stunts on self-taped auditions; and vocal stress protections.”
So what does a successful strike authorization vote mean? If members vote for this, it gives the SAG-AFTRA National Board power to declare a strike if the video game companies fail to negotiate fairly.
Here’s the information on voting for SAG-AFTRA members:
Voting information postcards will be mailed to eligible voters on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. Voting will close at 5 p.m. PT on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023. Members are also invited to learn more at informational meetings set for Thursday, Sept. 7 and Tuesday, Sept. 12, both from 6 – 8 p.m. PT / 9 – 11 p.m. ET. For voting instructions, meeting information and more, please visit sagaftra.org/videogames2023.
Featured image courtesy of Activision