SAG-AFTRA’s National Board has voted unanimously to send a strike authorization vote to SAG-AFTRA members in preparation of the union’s forthcoming bargaining dates with signatory video game companies, which 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.
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. 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.
“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!”
Work under the Interactive Media Agreement also 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. Unregulated use of AI poses an enormous threat to these artists’ professions.
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.”
In addition to AI protections, SAG-AFTRA is 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. Also needed: 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.
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.
Voting information postcards will be mailed to eligible voters on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. Voting will close at 5 p.m. PT on Sept. 25, 2023. Members are also invited to learn more at informational meetings set for Thursday, Sept. 7and 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.