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SAG-AFTRA Plans First Video Game Strike Picket for Monday

In a sign that no negotiations will take place soon, SAG-AFTRA will hold its first strike picket Monday morning in Playa del Rey in Los Angeles at video game producer Electronic Arts.

Union president Gabrielle Carteris is leading the action. SAG-AFTRA went on strike on Friday against video game companies, barring members from working as voice actors for Electronic Arts and 10 other companies — Activision Publishing, Blindlight, Corps of Discovery Films, Disney Character Voices, Formosa Interactive, Insomniac Games, Interactive Associates, Take-Two Interactive Software, VoiceWorks Prods., and WB Games.

It did not disclose plans for other strike actions at an afternoon news conference at its Los Angeles headquarters, with leaders spelling out details of the failure of the two sides to reach an agreement after 19 months of talks. SAG-AFTRA disclosed at the event that between 5,000 and 6,000 “affected” members — those working on the contract — had approved a strike authorization last year by more than 96%.

“These companies are immensely profitable, and successful games — which are the only games this dispute is about – drive that profit,” the union said this week after negotiations collapsed.

“We have proposed a fair payment structure that enables the sustainability of a professional performer community,” SAG-AFTRA added. “These employers have unreasonably refused that. The time has come to end the freeloader model of compensation and that is why our members are united behind this cause.”

The chief negotiator for Video Game Companies said Friday that the companies called upon the leadership of SAG-AFTRA to put the final proposal for the interactive media agreement to a vote of the members, rather than continue to strike over “terminology.”

“The Video Game Companies did everything in their power to reach agreement with union leaders, offering a money package almost identical to SAG-AFTRA’s last demand,” said Scott J. Witlin of the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, the chief negotiator for the Video Game Companies. “We are greatly disappointed that SAG-AFTRA refuses to allow its members to have a democratic vote on our proposal and decide if the significant money on the table is acceptable to them.”

“We believe SAG-AFTRA performers should be allowed to look at what we offered and compare it to the union’s last demand – and see that the terminology and other minimal differences are not worth striking over,” he said.

Witlin also said the companies cannot adopt SAG-AFTRA’s contingent payment structure for the relatively few SAG-AFTRA performers who work on a game because it would be unfair to the vast majority of the employees who spend exponentially more time making games and are not similarly paid.

But Ray Rodriguez, SAG-AFTRA chief contracts officer, said at the news conference that the companies should not be dictating how union staff should deal with members.

SAG-AFTRA, which has 165,000 members, was formed in 2012 through the merger of SAG and AFTRA. Members have been working under terms of a contract that expired at the end of 2014.

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