SAG-AFTRA may soon have another strike on its hands.
On Monday, union members voted 98.32 percent in favor of a strike authorization against the video game industry, with 34,687 members casting ballots and representing a percentage of 27.47 percent of eligible voters. While the results do not guarantee a work stoppage will occur, it gives union negotiators the ability to call a strike during ongoing negotiations for a new Interactive Media Agreement if they deem one necessary.
“It’s time for the video game companies to stop playing games and get serious about reaching an agreement on this contract,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher. “The result of this vote shows our membership understands the existential nature of these negotiations, and that the time is now for these companies — which are making billions of dollars and paying their CEOs lavishly — to give our performers an agreement that keeps performing in video games as a viable career.”
In response to the strike authorization vote, a spokesperson for the IMA said, “We will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that reflects the important contributions of SAG-AFTRA-represented performers in video games. We have reached tentative agreements on over half of the proposals and are optimistic we can find a resolution at the bargaining table.”
The voting period began on Sept. 5 and ended on Monday, in advance of negotiations restarting on Tuesday. “We fear without having substantial leverage in place, the companies will continue to drag their feet on making an acceptable deal,” the union says on a webpage about the vote. “The outcome of the IMA negotiations will determine whether our members working in interactive media can continue earning a professional living doing the job they love.”
Negotiations over the new contract — which covers voice, motion capture and stunt work on video games, as well as other performances — have been ongoing for nearly a year with a group of employers including 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 W.B. Games Inc.
With these talks, the union is seeking to significantly improve compensation for their performers working under the contract to counteract the effects of inflation, regulate the use of AI for performances in video games and implement greater safety measures for both on-camera and voice artists. “It’s not being dramatic to say we are at a crossroads where the very sustainability of a career performing in video games is at stake,” SAG-AFTRA executive vice president Ben Whitehair told members in a recent informational video.
SAG-AFTRA’s chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez has been leading talks for the union, while Kauff McGuire & Margolis managing partner William E. Zuckerman has been heading the negotiations for management.
“Between the exploitative uses of AI and lagging wages, those who work in video games are facing many of the same issues as those who work in film and television,” said Ray Rodriguez. “This strike authorization makes an emphatic statement that we must reach an agreement that will fairly compensate these talented performers, provide common-sense safety measures, and allow them to work with dignity. Our members’ livelihoods depend on it.”