SAG-AFTRA Puts Video Game Makers On Notice With Strike Authorization Vote Plan

SAG-AFTRA’s National Board has voted unanimously to send a strike authorization vote to members in advance of bargaining dates with signatory video game companies, the union said on Friday.

Its Interactive Media Agreement was extended beyond the original expiration date a year ago, but according to SAG-AFTRA, further negotiations failed to address key issues such as wage increases, rest periods and AI protections.

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“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, referencing the union’s current strike over its TV/theatrical contract with the AMPTP. “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!”

The union is seeking 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 members’ performances. Additionally, SAG-AFTRA is seeking the same wage increases for video game performers as for those who work under the film and television contracts: 11 percent retroactive to expiration and 4 percent increases in the second and third years of the agreement.

The union said it is also asking for on-camera performers to have a five-minutes-per-hour rest period, as well as a set medic present when stunts or hazardous work is performed, prohibitions against stunts on self-taped auditions, and vocal stress protections.

Information postcards will be mailed to voters on Sept. 5 and voting is scheduled to conclude on Sept. 25. Informational meetings for union members are scheduled to be held Sept. 7 and Sept. 12.

Signatory game companies include Activision Productions, Blindlight, Disney Character Voices, Electronic Arts Productions, Epic Games, Formosa Interactive, Insomniac Games, Take 2 Productions, VoiceWorks Productions and WB Games.

Said SAG-AFTRA national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland: “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.”

Audrey Cooling, spokesperson for the video game producers party to the Interactive Media Agreement, added in a statement, “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.”

Sept. 1, 5:40 p.m. Updated with the statement on behalf of the the video game producers.

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