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SAG-AFTRA members overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike on the Interactive Media Agreement (IMA) that covers members’ work on video games. Of the 34,687 ballots cast — (27.47% turn out), 98.32% voted in favor of the measure. Polls closed today September 25 at 5p.m. PT.
However, the strike authorization is not a call for an immediate strike. Since October 2022, SAG-AFTRA has been negotiating with the video game companies that signed onto the IMA. These include Activision, Blindlight, Disney Character Voices Inc., Electronic Arts, Formosa Interactive, Insomniac Games, Epic Games, Take-Two Interactive, VoiceWorks Productions and WB Games. If a strike is called, it’s not clear how other studios not covered in the IMA will respond.
“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. “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.”
AI is particularly salient for performers who have their motion capture performances recorded for video games. In theory, a performer’s likeness could be used without approval or compensation to train an AI if no limits are in place.
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SAG-AFTRA strike parallels in games
Similar to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike for film and television, compensation and regulations on the use of AI are key issues for IMA negotiations. SAG-AFTRA Interactive Media Agreement Negotiating Committee and National Board unanimously recommended the strike authorization vote on September 5, 2023.
“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,” said Ray Rodriguez, chief contracts officer. “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.”
The next bargaining session is scheduled for September 26-28. SAG-AFTRA hopes that the authorization will serve as added leverage in the talks between the union and the studios.
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