SAG-AFTRA members have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against video game companies if negotiations for a new contract fail.
Though not an immediate call for a strike, the strike authorization aims to empower union leaders in their negotiations.
This brings the entertainment industry closer to another potential work stoppage.
It follows the ongoing strike by SAG-AFTRA’s film and television actors, which began mid-July.
They joined Writers Guild of America members on picket lines, marking the first action in 63 years.
The writers and major Hollywood studios reached a tentative deal on Sunday, September 24.
The union reported that 98 percent of those who voted supported the strike authorization.
The union and video game companies are preparing for another round of negotiations under the Interactive Media Agreement.
It’s scheduled to commence today (Tuesday, September 26).
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, said: “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.”
Audrey Cooling, spokesperson for the video game producers, said: “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.”
The agreement, negotiated in 2017, expired in November and covers approximately 2,600 performers.
Unlike the previous agreement, the 2017 negotiation did not address AI.
AI has become a central concern in film and TV actors’ and WGA writers’ strikes.
Video game actors argue that AI poses a significant threat to their industry, particularly for those involved in voice-over work.
Their demand is not to halt the use of AI but to secure contracts that require their consent to reproduce their voice or likeness.
They also seek compensation when such reproduction occurs.
Sarah Elmaleh, chair of the interactive negotiating committee, noted some members see potential new revenue streams with AI while others remain cautious.
She said: “AI is being litigated literally and culturally and economically, all in real time right now.
“The responsible thing to do is to say, ‘What you can’t do is cut us out of this conversation.’”
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Under the interactive agreement, video game performers seek a wage raise on par with the film and TV contracts to combat inflation.
The negotiating committee has requested an 11 percent retroactive increase from the previous contract’s expiration.
They also want a 4 percent increase in the second and third years of the agreement.
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According to the union, the game companies have proposed a five percent increase upon ratification, followed by 4 and 3 percent increases in the subsequent years.
They also demand worker protections, including a five-minute-per-hour rest period for on-camera performers and the inclusion of a set medic for stunts and hazardous work.