SAG-AFTRA Gears Up For Possible Strike Against Video Game Industry As Board Approves Authorization Vote By Guild Membership

SAG-AFTRA, which has been on strike against film and scripted TV productions since July 14, is now gearing up for another possible strike – this one against the video game industry. The guild’s last strike against the gaming companies, in 2016-17, lasted 183 days.

The guild’s national board has voted unanimously to send a strike authorization vote to members in preparation of its upcoming bargaining dates with 10 signatory video game companies. Voting for the strike authorization will begin on September 5 and end on September 25.

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“Here we go again,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher. “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.”

“The overlap of these two SAG-AFTRA contracts,” she said, “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.’”

The 10 companies facing a possible strike are:

  • 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.

Audrey Cooling, a spokesperson for the video game companies said, “We all want a fair contract that reflects the important contributions of SAG-AFTRA-represented performers in an industry that delivers world-class entertainment to billions of players around the world. We are negotiating in good faith and hope to reach a mutually beneficial deal as soon as possible.”

“It has been nearly a year since SAG-AFTRA’s video game contract, the Interactive Media Agreement, was extended beyond the original expiration date as we negotiated with the companies for critical terms SAG-AFTRA members need,” the guild said in a statement. “Unfortunately, throughout the negotiations, the companies have failed to address those needs. For this reason, the negotiating committee and National Board unanimously agreed that the union should have a member-approved strike authorization in hand when bargaining resumes on Sept. 26.

“Although key issues like wages that keep up with inflation and protections against unrestrained use of artificial intelligence are common sticking points in negotiations, the Interactive Media (Video Game) Agreement is a separate contract from the TV, theatrical and streaming contracts against which SAG-AFTRA members are currently striking.

“Work under the video game contract “includes a great deal of ‘performance capture,’ where trained professionals, many of whom are stunt performers, provide digitally captured performances used to give expressive movement to video game characters,” the guild said. “Unregulated use of AI poses an enormous threat to these artists’ professions.”

In addition to AI protections, SAG-AFTRA says it’s seeking “the same wage increases for video game performers as for those who work under the film and television contracts: 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.”

The union is also asking for on-camera performers to have the same five-minutes-per-hour rest period that off-camera performers are entitled to. The guild also wants 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.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the guild’s national executive director and chief negotiator, said that “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 guild noted that a successful strike authorization vote “doesn’t initiate a strike. Instead, the strike authorization permits the National Board to declare a strike if the video game companies fail to negotiate fairly with SAG-AFTRA for the benefit of its members. The union is fighting for protective language in the contract that will require informed consent and appropriate payment for the creation and use of digital replicas and for training AI systems with our members’ performances.”

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