Image provided by SAG-AFTRA.
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has voted to authorize a strike against the video game industry. Union members have set the stage for a video game strike to take place today as 98.32% voted in favor of a strike and 34,687 members voted, representing 24.47% of eligible voters.
“It’s time for the video game companies to stop playing and get serious about reaching an agreement on this contract,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement. “The result of this vote shows that our members understand the existential nature of these negotiations and that now is the time for these companies – who make billions of dollars and pay their CEOs generously – to give our artists an agreement that continues to allow video performances . “Gaming as a viable career.”
The vote result is an important impetus for a strike, but it does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike now. Essentially, the overwhelmingly successful vote simply gives SAG-AFTRA members the ability to stop working if negotiations with gaming companies fail. Negotiations have been ongoing since October 2022, but have not produced any substantial results. As the group explains, “Companies have refused to offer acceptable terms on some of the issues most important to our members.” SAG-AFTRA’s goals include wages that reflect inflation, protections against exploitative uses of AI, and basic safety precautions .
“With the exploitative use of AI and declining wages, those who work in video games face many of the same issues as those who work in film and television,” said Ray Rodriguez, chief contracts officer. “This strike authorization makes it clear that we must reach an agreement that fairly compensates these talented artists, provides reasonable safety measures and allows them to work with dignity. Our members’ livelihoods depend on this.”
The next rounds of discussions will take place on September 26th, 27th and 28th. Companies participating in the discussions include Activision, Disney, EA, Insomniac Games, Epic Games, Take-Two Productions, Warner Bros. Games and more. The successful SAG-AFTRA vote signals that these companies should take workers’ demands seriously to avoid a strike. However, if negotiations continue to stall in the coming days, a real strike is likely.
“After five rounds of negotiations, it has become abundantly clear that video game companies are unwilling to meaningfully engage on the issues that matter: compensation eroded by inflation, unregulated use of AI and security,” the national executive director and head of SAG-AFTRA said negotiators Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “I remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement that meets members’ needs, but our members are tired of being exploited and if these companies are unwilling to offer a fair deal, our next stops will be the picket lines be.” “
A SAG-AFTRA video game strike could mark a monumental shift toward fair compensation and treatment in the gaming industry, but it is not the first of its kind. In 2016, union members launched a strike demanding the group seek compensation for successful game sales, stunt coordinators , job transparency and a better understanding of vocal stress. SAG-AFTRA finally saw its wishes come true, even if it took nearly a year.
Meanwhile, Hollywood actors from the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA have participated in strikes for most of the summer. While the WGA reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to end its strike, SAG-AFTRA remains on the picket lines with no clear agreement in sight. We’ll learn more about the existing strikes and a possible video game strike as the days go by, so stay tuned for any updates.