SAG-AFTRA, the powerful union representing over 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, singers, stunt performers, and voiceover artists, has called a labor strike, effective immediately, against certain video game producers.

The strike, announced tonight, comes after a 19-month attempt to negotiate a new deal with employers in the video game industry. Currently, voice actors who perform in video games are governed by an outdated contract from 1994 that has left voice actors, according to SAG-AFTRA, “without the protections necessary to work in the modern video game industry.”

“SAG-AFTRA has gone to the negotiations table with serious concerns affecting voiceover and stunt performers,” said SAG-AFTRA chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez. “It’s time for video game employers to take our concerns seriously and negotiate a modern contract based on actor safety, industry precedent and best practices.”

The companies who are targeted in the strike include some of the biggest names in games, as well as subsidiaries of entertainment conglomerates like Disney and Warner Bros. They are:

  • Activision Publishing Inc.
  • Blindlight, LLC
  • Corps of Discovery Films
  • Disney Character Voices, Inc.
  • Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.
  • Formosa Interactive, LLC
  • Insomniac Games, Inc.
  • Interactive Associates, Inc.
  • Take 2 Interactive Software
  • VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.
  • WB Games, Inc.

SAG is asking performers and voiceover artists, both union and non-union, to honor the strike and not work for these companies until a satisfactory deal is reached. The strike is largely supported by SAG’s own membership; in a strike authorization vote held last October, over 96% of SAG members voted yes to strike against the game companies.

Here are the key issues, from SAG’s perspective, that need to be addressed in a new contract:

Secondary Compensation

Unlike many other SAG-AFTRA contracts, there is currently NOT a secondary compensation structure on any
video games.

We’re asking for a reasonable performance bonus for every 2 million copies, or downloads sold, or 2 million unique subscribers to online-only games, with a cap at 8 million units/subscribers. That shakes out, potentially, to FOUR session payments per principal performer for the most successful games: 2 million, 4 million, 6 million and 8 million copies.

Producers Hide Important Information

Transparency is lacking in the video game industry.
Actors need to know more about the projects that they are working on. SAG-AFTRA has proposed that the actual title of the project and the role being hired for should be made available before signing a contract. Video game employers routinely engage performers without identifying the role or even the game that the performer is being engaged to work on. Moreover, they refuse to provide basic information about the nature of the performance that will be expected of them. This deprives the performer of the ability to make a meaningful decision about whether to accept a role or to negotiate appropriate compensation, if they do. Precedent is on our side here. You wouldn’t work on a TV show, commercial or film without knowing what part you’re playing and how it fits into the story, yet we are asked over and over again to do just that in interactive media.

Employers Are Not Taking You Seriously

The employers have said no to most of SAG-AFTRA’s proposals and haven’t taken these negotiations seriously.
For instance, in response to our concerns about vocal safety, they offered to put more tea and water in the booths for the actors — something they already do and this doesn’t resolve the issue or protect the actors.

Now is the Time To Act

The SAG-AFTRA Interactive Contract was originally written in 1994.
Now, over 20 years later, the video game industry has evolved to the point where successful video games generate more revenue than the biggest blockbuster, yet, the same contract that was negotiated in 1994 hasn’t changed to reflect the industry today. SAG-AFTRA is committed to bringing the Interactive contract into the 21st Century with the protections and compensation that our members deserve. We wish our partners across the table felt the same way, but they seem more interested in “winning” this round of negotiations than cooperating with our members to create a contract based on precedent and best practices.

The first picket will be this Monday, October 24, at Electronic Arts in Playa Vista, CA at 10:30am PT.

Latest News from Cartoon Brew