SAG-AFTRA Board Pushes for Strike against Influential Video Game Titans

Amid rising tensions, SAG-AFTRA’s National Board has unanimously appealed to its union members for approval to strike against several influential video game producers

by Faruk Imamovic
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SAG-AFTRA Board Pushes for Strike against Influential Video Game Titans
© Getty Images News/Mario Tama

Amid rising tensions, SAG-AFTRA’s National Board has unanimously appealed to its union members for approval to strike against several influential video game producers. This comes just before negotiations are set to recommence later this month.

A History of Unresolved Discussions

The initial agreement between the union and the major video game companies, aptly named the Interactive Media Agreement, was meant to expire last fall. However, it was extended when SAG-AFTRA entered into discussions “for critical terms (members) need,” as mentioned in a recent news release by the union.

Despite this, the negotiations have hit a wall. “Unfortunately, throughout the negotiations, the companies have failed to address those needs,” the release remarked. SAG-AFTRA's president, Fran Drescher, didn't mince words when expressing her frustration. “Once again we are facing employer greed and disrespect.

Artificial intelligence is putting our members in jeopardy of reducing their opportunity to work,” she stated emphatically, continuing, “The disease of greed is spreading like wildfire ready to burn workers out of their livelihoods and humans out of their usefulness.

We at SAG-AFTRA say NO! Not on our watch!”

Fair Compensation and AI Protections

Central to the union's demands is an 11% retroactive wage boost for video game performers, coupled with a 4% rise in the contract’s subsequent two years, a necessary measure to counteract inflation's effects.

While discussions are ongoing, a SAG-AFTRA representative commented on the current terms, claiming that due to inflation, members might end up “making less in real dollars in 2025 than they did in 2020”. This perspective starkly contrasts the sentiment shared by Audrey Cooling, a representative for the video game companies.

She expressed optimism, saying, “We all want a fair contract that reflects the important contributions of SAG-AFTRA-represented performers. We are negotiating in good faith and hope to reach a mutually beneficial deal as soon as possible”.

However, it's not just about the money. A significant part of the ongoing negotiations revolves around protections against AI, particularly concerning performance capture technology. This technology records an actor's movements and facial cues to render video game avatars more realistic.

Highlighting the gravity of this concern, SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, emphasized, “Voice and performance capture AI are among the most advanced uses of AI: the threat is here and it is real.

Without contractual protections, the employers are asking performers to unknowingly participate in the extinction of their artistry and livelihoods”.

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