Negotiators for SAG-AFTRA are seeking a strike authorization from video game voice actors after failed negotiations for a successor deal.
The performers union sent out postcards for the strike vote on Sept. 16 to “affected members” — meaning those who have worked on the Interactive Media Agreement — with a deadline of Oct. 5. The SAG-AFTRA constitution mandates that a strike authorization goes into effect only if backed by at least 75% of those voting.
“After a successful strike authorization vote, we will reach out to the employers and ask them to return to negotiations,” the union said.
The contract covers work performed for Activision, Electronic Arts, Disney, Warner Bros. and other employers of video game voice actors. Reps for Warner Bros. and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers declined to comment on the strike vote.
SAG-AFTRA pokesperson Pamela Greenwalt told Variety that she could not comment beyond what the union has posted on its website. “SAG-AFTRA declines comment due to our ongoing negotiations and a mutually agreed upon media blackout,” she said.
One of the key proposals seeks bonuses for voice actors on games that sell over 2 million units with subsequent payments when sales reach 4 million, 6 million and 8 million.
“There is ample precedent for secondary payments across the media landscape,” SAG-AFTRA said. “You get secondary payments when you perform in feature films, animation, episodic TV, commercials and the like. But that wasn’t always the case. Performers who came before you had the courage to fight for the residual payments you enjoy today, and, because they stood together, they won them.”
The union contended that such bonuses are not uncommon in the videogame industry, noting that Activision’s chief operating officer received a bonus last year of $3,970,862 and Electronic Arts paid their executive chairman a bonus of $1.5 million.
“The top games make money,” SAG-AFTRA said. “This industry has grown, boomed and morphed into something bigger and lucrative than any other segment of the entertainment industry, and it continues to do so.”
SAG-AFTRA is also seeking language covering what it called “vocally stressful” recordings.
“We believe actors should get stunt pay for vocally stressful recording sessions the same way they get stunt pay for physically demanding roles,” the union said. “That’s why we’re proposing to limit ‘vocally stressful’ recording sessions to two hours at the same union minimums.”
Actors are working under the terms of a contract that expired at the end of 2014. Contract negotiations took place in February and June — and the union has opted to characterize the demands of the companies as “crazy” and “outrageous.”
In the FAQ section, the first question asked is, “The demands are too outrageous to be serious. They’re just testing us out, right?”
The response reads, “If it is a test, let’s not fail it. We agree many of their demands are crazy. Some may not even be legally enforceable. Rather than back down, or allow these ‘proposals’ to proceed, let’s send a strong signal to the industry that we are prepared to negotiate over proposals that are based on precedent and best-practices and that all other proposals should be taken off the table.”
The list of demands SAG-AFTRA also included stunt coordinators on performance capture and transparency during auditions.
“We propose that the actual title of the project should be made available to at least our representatives before we are asked to audition,” SAG-AFTRA said. “Again, 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.”
The union also said companies have proposed being able to fine actors and agents along with being able to use “persons employed on staff” as voice actors who would not be covered under the agreement.
“If the employers’ proposals for fining actors and agents or the ability to use their staff to do voiceover work in video games gets into the Interactive Media Agreement, then we are setting precedent for all the other industry union contracts,” SAG-AFTRA said. “Remember, Warner Bros. and Disney are at the table. If they can get away with these proposals in the Interactive Media Agreement, what’s to stop them from making the same proposals at other negotiations?”
The strike authorization has been supported by several notable voice actors including Elias Toufexis (“Deus Ex’s” Adam Jensen), D.C. Douglas (“Resident Evil’s” Wesker) and Jennifer Hale (“Mass Effect’s” Femshep). The movement also has Twitter hashtags: #PerformanceMatters and #iAmOnBoard2015.