SAG-AFTRA Draws More Than 500 to Video Game Strike Rally

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SAG-AFTRA drew more than 500 supporters Thursday to a spirited rally as its video game strike moves into its fourth month.

“We are not going to stop until we have a fair contract for our members,” said David White, SAG-AFTRA national executive director. “This is not just about money. It’s about fair working conditions and secondary compensation.”

The union, which has already picketed Activision, Warner Bros., and Insomniac Games, marched from its Los Angeles headquarters to the park next to the La Brea Tar Pits for the rally.

Negotiations collapsed in October, resulting in SAG-AFTRA calling a strike on Oct. 21 against 11 video game producers: Insomniac Games; Warner Bros.; EA; Activision Publishing; Blindlight; Corps of Discovery Films; Disney Character Voices, Inc.; Formosa Interactive, LLC; Interactive Associates; Take 2 Interactive Software; and VoiceWorks Productions.

Negotiating committee member Phil LaMarr revealed at the rally that a dozen unnamed companies have agreed since the strike began to contracts with terms containing SAG-AFTRA’s proposal — which provide for residuals, vocal-stress protections, coverage of stunt coordinators, and disclosure of what the work entails before the performer agrees to the job.

“The new deals show that those companies realize that what we’re asking for is reasonable,” he added.

Gabrielle Carteris, president of SAG-AFTRA, led the march and rally, as she has at the three previous pickets. She told the crowd, “You are the collective voice — performance matters.”

White told Variety at the rally that the performers union is amenable to re-starting negotiations, adding, “We are open 24/7.”

Scott Witlin, who represents the video game companies, has repeatedly blasted the union leadership for not allowing members to vote on the final offer, providing an immediate 9 percent pay hike.

“We remain disappointed that SAG-AFTRA leadership remains focused on outmoded ideas about how compensation is structured rather than the real dollars and cents that the video game companies put on the table,” he said Thursday.

“Indeed, we offered more money than SAG-AFTRA demanded in an attempt to avoid this strike. The union leaders walked away from real gains in order to try to fit this business into an old mold. That was an unfortunate position for them as it has only hurt performers who have lost work and who will continue to miss out on new work for as long as the strike continues.”

The rally drew members of WGA, DGA, Actors Equity, IATSE, Unite Here, SEIU, the Teamsters and the American Federation of Musicians, which provided a brass band. Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation, Rusty Hicks of the L.A. County Federation of Labor and Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu also spoke and rapper Murs performed.


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  1. twilight says:

    The people who do NON-ESSENTIAL work on video games, covering only dozens of hours, want more money per project than the entire salaries of the lead programmers who work on average for THREE YEARS solid. And they expect to win this through the usual Hollywood union thuggery.

    We see the same with movies. The people who develop and deploy the VFX that actually drives the mega profits of the popcorn blockbusters get diddly squat. But the ‘stars’ who offer a handful of weeks of their time get more than everyone else who works on the movie combined. This is obscene. Yet the thug Hollywood unions actual laughable claim this is ‘socialism’ in motion.

    The voice actors deserve a good HOURLY rate and nothing else. Every one else who works infinitely harder on the game gets no more, with very few exceptions. And the ‘mods’ that appear for the hyper popular titles like Fallout and Skyrim frequently contain amateur voice acting better than the so-called pro-work, proving that when it comes to voice talent, 1/4 of the general population could be better tapped to do this work than ‘pros’. If the game devs are pushed too hard by Hollywood thug unions, they will discover that there is zero benefit (beyond a little initial convenience) in employing ‘pros’, and will begin the process of encouraging other people to offer up their voice services.

    Games are not like movies. The star system does not exist, and the old unions have no leverage. If there is a cause for union activity in game development (and there is), it would cover the FULL-TIME artists and coders, and not the carpet baggers who want to come in at the end and grap the lion’s share of the pot.

    • Dave says:

      If you had a broken arm would you tolerate being told to suck it up because other people out there have broken legs?

      The game industry is part of the entertainment industry. The big players want to use pro talent. Why should the pro talent accept anything less than their industry standard? When someone signs up for a movie they get information about the role, the production etc. They’re not kept in the dark and forced to record lines independently and with little to no context or direction besides what a Producer is willing to divulge for fear of leaking spoilers. Which goes a long way in explaining why the tone of certain pro voice actors is all over the place, while the modders who get to work with a finished product are better able to adapt to the scene (mainly because the scene actually exists).

      If anything the overworked / underpaid developers being exploited for the benefit of their executives should be seeing this as a rallying cry for the absolute need to unionize their industry. The exact same thing applies to VFX professionals who also don’t have industry protection via unionization. Employee exploitation is the main reason I quit the game industry – twice.

      EA just posted its financials for the last quarter and celebrated the fact that they generated over $1 BILLION in operational cash flow. Now while that’s not actual profit – it’s still 9 ZEROES worth of money. You really believe they can’t afford industry standard rates to freelance professional actors on a successful title?

      All those suits who are nickel and diming the gaming public with half finished releases packed with every kind of DLC just love people like you.

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