SAG-AFTRA Members Authorize Videogame Strike

The authorization is not a strike, but rather a show of resolve.

SAG-AFTRA members who work on videogames authorized a strike by a vote of 96.52 percent to 3.48 percent, the union announced Wednesday on its website, an action that does not in itself begin a job action but one that ups the ante in negotiations on a contract that expired December 31, 2014. Bargaining sessions held in February 3-4 and June 23 of this year have not led to a successor agreement.

The union did not say how many ballots were sent out or returned.

The authorization, which under SAG-AFTRA constitution required a 75 percent affirmative vote to pass, gives the union’s national board the authority to call a strike. The union’s website said that its negotiating committee for the contract would now “seek to return to the bargaining table and continue to press for a fair resolution on behalf of performers working in video games.” The website also says that even with the authorization, the union would not call a strike “without reaching out to the [acting] community first.”

On the other side of the table, according to the union, are EA Games, Activision, Disney and Warner Bros., as well as smaller studios like Blindlight and Formosa.

The key union demands are a backend bonus – essentially, a residual – after every two million copies sold, up to a cap of eight million copies, yielding a maximum total residual of $3,300; stunt pay for vocally stressful roles; a stunt coordinator for performance capture (motion capture) work; and transparency about basic aspects of a project.

Key company demands that rile SAG-AFTRA include, according to the union, a “fine” of $2,500 if a performer shows up late or is not “attentive to the services for which [he/she] have been engaged”; a “fine” of $50,000 – $100,000 levied against the performer’s agent if the agent doesn’t send the performer out on certain auditions, and a requirement that SAG-AFTRA revoke the agent’s union franchise; no jurisdiction over motion and performance capture work; allowing companies to hire their own employees to play characters in videogames without having to join the union; reduction in integration/reuse fees; and allowing cloud gaming provisions to expire, which the union says amounts to a rollback.

A representative of the videogame companies declined to comment, citing a press blackout agreed to by the parties.

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