The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, one of the largest unions representing voice actors, set a potential strike date for Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, if game publishers don’t produce an acceptable contract by then.
The union voted on Oct. 7.
“We are pleased to report that the Interactive Media Agreement Strike Authorization Referendum was a resounding success with 96.52% of members voting in favor of the referendum,” according to a statement from SAG-AFTRA.
With the approval of the referendum, the SAG-AFTRA National Board has the option to declare a strike.
Any strike would prevent union members from working on games that entered production after Feb. 17, 2015, and this affects companies such as Electronic Arts, Disney, Insomniac Games, WB Games, Take-Two Interactive and more.
“It is important to note that the Video Game Companies’ upcoming games are already in production and the majority will be unaffected by any SAG-AFTRA strike,” wrote Scott Witlin, who is representing the industry through the law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP. “We anticipate minimal impact on current and near-future game releases,”
One of the demands of SAG-AFTRA is secondary compensation for work, such as residuals from game sales, a common practice in film and TV, for any game that sells over 2 million units. Most smaller or independent games that use union members will be unaffected.
There’s also a demand for more safety measures, as voice actors often provide motion-capture work alongside their avoices. Additionally, there’s demands for more transparency with regard to the work they are doing, such as the name of the project. The famously secretive industry has put a hard no there.
The statement from Witlin called the threat of a strike precipitous and unnecessary, believing the strike would only harm union membership since SAG-AFTRA only represents about a quarter of all performers.
“Any strike would not only deny SAG-AFTRA’s membership work, but this would also give their competitors, who do not engage union talent, a leg up while any strike would be in place,” Witlin wrote.
In 2015, when the union last went on strike, the action gained public support from several of the most well-known names in game voice acting, such as David Hayter (Metal Gear Solid series), Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect franchise), Phil Lamarr and Wil Wheaton.
Hayter and Hale both offered their support for the strike motion when the vote opened a few weeks ago. Should the strike go into effect, more voice actors are likely to publically voice their support.
Last-minute negotiations have started and will continue through the week, but optimism is low for a clean end.
“Based on past experience, we are not confident management is willing to make the changes necessary to bring this contract up to the standards of our other agreements,” the union said in an official announcement.