The union can now use the threat of a strike as a bargaining chip to increase wages and protect against AI when talks resume September 26 with companies such as Electronic Arts and Activision.
SAG-AFTRA members have officially voted to authorize a strike against the video game industry after seeking approval earlier this month, according to Variety. The strike will now run simultaneously with the one already underway against the film and TV industry.
Just over 34,000 members cast ballots to authorize the strike against 10 major video game companies, with 98.32% in favor. The companies potentially targeted by the strike are Activision Productions Inc, Blindlight LLC, Disney Character Voices Inc., Electronic Arts Productions Inc., Formosa Interactive LLC, Insomniac Games Inc., Epic Games, Take 2 Productions Inc., VoiceWorks Productions Inc., and WB Games Inc.
While the authorization does not guarantee a work stoppage will occur, it can be leveraged in the upcoming Interactive Media Agreement negotiations set to resume on September 26. Talks have been ongoing since October 2022 with no agreements reached.
“After five rounds of bargaining, it has become abundantly clear that the video game companies aren’t willing to meaningfully engage on the critical issues: compensation undercut by inflation, unregulated use of AI and safety,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA national executive director and chief negotiator, in a statement. “I remain hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement that meets members’ needs, but our members are done being exploited, and if these corporations aren’t willing to offer a fair deal, our next stop will be the picket lines.”
Variety previously reported that “SAG-AFTRA is asking for an 11% retroactive increase in rates for video game performers, followed by increases of 4% and 4%,” the same request for film and TV studios that is currently being denied.
“Between the exploitative uses of AI and lagging wages, those who work in video games are facing many of the same issues as those who work in film and television,” added chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez. “This strike authorization makes an emphatic statement that we must reach an agreement that will fairly compensate these talented performers, provide common-sense safety measures, and allow them to work with dignity. Our members’ livelihoods depend on it.”
A spokesperson for the signatory video game companies told Variety in a statement, “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.”