The premier actors union SAG-AFTRA held a rally Thursday afternoon to address their continued strike against video game industry giants, reminding the industry and fans of their efforts to rework a decades-old standard for voice actors in interactive media. SAG-AFTRA held the rally in downtown Los Angeles, inviting members to march from their headquarters to the La Brea Tar Pits. Major union players, including the President of SAG-AFTRA, spoke at the event. SAG-AFTRA announced there were nearly 500 in attendance, including not only their own members but members from supporting unions, groups, and community members.
One of the negotiating committee members, Phil LaMarr, said that since the beginning of the strike several companies have agreed to the demands made by the union, including the allowance of secondary compensation and broader disclosures for performers, though he did not name these companies. Another committee member, Keythe Farley, told the crowd “I can't believe we're still fighting for this contract two years later. I thought we'd be done by lunch on day one..." Negotiations were attempted last year between SAG-AFTRA and a collective of AAA companies including Activision, EA, and other studios and interactive media agent groups.
While the industry leaders were amenable to demands regarding vocal stress, motion capture safety regulations, and many of the smaller requests, they refused the demands for residual contracts and more work disclosure, citing concerns with confidentiality. David White, the executive director of SAG-AFTRA, says they are still always open to re-negotiations.
Meanwhile, representative of the video game companies under fire, Scott Witlin, says that the companies stand firm against the demand for residual contracts and continues to blast the union for not accepting their proposed contract, which would offer a base pay increase up front. Witlin emphasized that their proposed increase would give performers more money than the residual pay scheme, and insisted the union is not being fair to their performers by continuing to reject the industry's proposal. In response to the Thursday rally, Witlin told reporters:
"We remain disappointed that SAG-AFTRA leadership remains focused on outmoded ideas about how compensation is structured rather than the real dollars and cents that the video game companies put on the table...Indeed, we offered more money than SAG-AFTRA demanded in an attempt to avoid this strike. The union leaders walked away from real gains in order to try to fit this business into an old mold. That was an unfortunate position for them as it has only hurt performers who have lost work and who will continue to miss out on new work for as long as the strike continues."The SAG-AFTRA strike has gone on for over 100 days, with negotiations ending back in October. The February 2nd rally marks the two-year anniversary of when negotiations for a new contract first began. The union has made several social media campaigns to draw attention to the cause, including their #PerformanceMatters campaign which began before the strike started. Picket lines have been held in front of the offices of Insomniac Games, EA Games, WB Games, and VoiceWorks Productions. The industry leaders have held fast against the proposed contract, and neither party has hinted at any compromise being made. During the first stages of the strike, a public relations group for the industry leaders created the website SAGAFTRAVideoGames.com to counteract the unions' claims. It has since been taken down, following legal orders by SAG-AFTRA for the use of their name.
Rumors have already circulated that certain games like Injustice 2 may see release delays as a result of the strike. SAG-AFTRA released a list of games which are affected by the strike. It is important to note though, that some games on that list may have had the voice work already done. All games by the companies listed on their strike page that are beginning development in 2017 will be included in the strike, at least until it concludes.
Don't know what this strike is about? Here is our full guide with everything you need to know about the SAG-AFTRA strike. Do you think it will ever end? Let us know in the comments below.