Sep 26, 2023 - Economy

SAG-AFTRA authorizes strike against video game companies

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher speaks at the SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles Solidarity March and Rally on Sept. 13 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images

Members of SAG-AFTRA, the union representing Hollywood actors, television and radio artists, voted overwhelmingly on Monday to authorize a strike against 10 of the nation's biggest video game companies.

Why it matters: Video game voice actors have been pushing to renegotiate a contract with big gaming studios for over a year. Their previous contract expired last November.

Details: Of the 34,687 ballots cast, representing 27.47% of SAG-AFTRA's eligible voters, a whopping 98.32% voted in favor of authorizing a strike, the union said.

  • "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 in a statement.
  • "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."

State of play: A strike authorization doesn't necessarily mean voice and performance actors working on video games will stop working, but it does allow the union to call a strike if it feels negotiations aren't going anywhere.

  • SAG-AFTRA first called for a strike authorization vote in early September, just months after Hollywood actors began picketing major studios in mid-July.
  • The union is calling for a retroactive 11% wage increase, on-set medics for hazardous performance capture and protections against the use of generative AI to replace working actors, Axios has reported.

Between the lines: The 10 gaming firms impacted by the strikes 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.

  • In response to the strike authorization, Audrey Cooling, a representative for the gaming companies 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."

Flashback: The last time video game voice actors went on strike was 2016. It lasted nearly a year.

The big picture: Hollywood actors have been on strike since mid-July.

  • The group is expected to make more progress in its negotiations with major Hollywood studios now that a tentative agreement has been reached between Hollywood writers and the studios.
  • One key issue for the actors is the threat that game companies will use generative AI to replicate their voices or make new ones that take their jobs.

What's next: The union and game industry are set to resume talks this week.

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