SAG-AFTRA members have voted unanimously to follow in the footsteps of the Writer’s Guild of America today, authorizing a unionized strike against the larger video game industry.
The final round of voting this week saw over 98 percent of ballot-casting members in favor of a strike authorization, with 34,687 ballots ratifying the move to strike, according to an official Sept. 25 statement from SAG-AFTRA.
While this only covers a quarter of eligible voters, it suggests the body as a whole is ready to strike against the industry over wage concerns and safety precautions.
“It’s time for the video game companies to stop playing games and get serious about reaching an agreement on this contract,” SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said, adding the overwhelming result shows the group understands the nature of negotiations and that “the time is now for these companies to give our performers an agreement that keeps performing in games as a viable career.”
Bargaining agreements have been negotiated five times as of September 2023, and SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland believes that, without a result, a strike may be the best course of action.
“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,” he said.
Chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez likened the situation to that of those working in the film and television industries, with chief concerns of membership being the exploitive use of AI and lagging wages, as well as the lack of common-sense safety measures.
Should the decision to strike be properly confirmed, it will be the second major strike action for the group in seven years following 2016’s 11-month stand-off between the union and the industry. The decision to vote on strike authorization was issued in early September, with today the final day to submit votes.
It is understood companies including, but not limited to, Activision, Disney, Electronic Arts, and Insomniac Games have been at the negotiating table for almost an entire year according to SAG-AFTRA’s strike authorization portal.
Agreements between the union and the industry have been operating on a month-by-month basis following the end of the contract on Nov. 7, 2022, with another round of negotiations originally planned for this week.
“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,” Rodriguez said. “Our members’ livelihoods depend on it.”
SAG-AFTRA’s film and television performers have been on strike since July.