SAG-AFTRA Goes on Strike Against Video Game Companies

SAG-AFTRA has gone on strike against video game companies after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract for work by voice actors.

The strike began at 12:01 a.m. PDT Friday. Negotiators for the performers union held three days of talks this week, bringing in a federal mediator, but could not reach a deal as SAG-AFTRA rejected the companies’ final offer. No new negotiations have been scheduled.

SAG-AFTRA said Friday that it would picket Electronic Arts in Playa Vista on Monday.

SAG-AFTRA told its 165,000 members on Oct. 16 that the union would go on strike unless a deal was reached this week. Both sides took potshots at each other after negotiations ended.

The two sides began intermittent negotiations on a new contract 18 months ago. Voice actors have been working under a contract that expired at the end of 2014.

SAG-AFTRA accused the companies of refusing to acknowledge that, under current conditions, actors need to be compensated for re-use, much as they already are via residuals for movies and television. The union called the companies’ last contract proposal a “freeloader model of compensation.”

The companies’ final offer included an immediate 9% wage hike if SAG-AFTRA union members ratified the offer by Dec. 1.

“We had hoped this would be successful, but union leadership left mediation without providing a counteroffer. We urged union leaders to put the package to a vote of their membership, but union leaders refused,” said Scott J. Witlin of the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, the chief negotiator for the companies.

The union announced Sunday that it would go on strike against the following companies if it did not get a deal: Activision Publishing; Blindlight; Corps of Discovery Films; Disney Character Voices; Electronic Arts Prods.; Formosa Interactive; Insomniac Games; Interactive Associates; Take-Two Interactive Software; VoiceWorks Prods.; and WB Games. It said the strike would cover all games made by these companies that went into production after Feb. 17, 2015.

The strike order reads as follows: “The National Board of Directors instructs all SAG-AFTRA members to withhold performing services and auditioning for work under the Interactive Media Agreement with respect to struck games for the following struck employers effective midnight of October 21. 2016.

“All covered services must be withheld, including, but not limited to: voice acting; motion or performance capture work; background work; principal on camera work (including singing, dancing and performing stunts); authorizing the use of your voice or of a sound-a-like voice in a video game; consenting to the reuse of prior work into a struck game; performing on a trailer for a struck game and performing on ‘downloadable content (DLC)’ or other ancillary content connected to a struck game.”

It’s the first strike for SAG-AFTRA, which was created in 2012 through the merger of SAG and AFTRA. Those two unions staged a six-month strike in 2000 against the advertising industry — one of the longest work stoppages in Hollywood history.

The first membership rule is that SAG-AFTRA members cannot work for a company that has not signed a basic agreement with the union. Violators can be fined, suspended or expelled.

“No member shall render any services or make an agreement to perform services for any employer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the Union, which is in full force and effect, in any jurisdiction in which there is a SAG-AFTRA national collective bargaining agreement in place. This provision applies worldwide,” it reads. “No member shall render any services, or make an agreement to perform services, for any employer against whom the Union is conducting a strike, nor shall any member otherwise violate any strike order of the Union.”

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