Over 250 people picket EA amid voice actors' strike, union responds to management claims [Updated]


After going on strike last Friday, over 250 people demonstrated outside EA's Playa Vista, California office yesterday in support of the US actors guild SAG-AFTRA's action against 11 videogame publishers. 

As reported by Deadline, this marks the first public action to take place as a result of the strike, however a resolution is yet to be met. 

Speaking to Destructoid, Sam Singer, a communications officer speaking on behalf of the videogame companies in question, said: 

"The Companies are impressed and appreciative of the research and investigation the union did on vocal stress and had agreed to work together on addressing the issues before union leadership rashly decided to strike, rather than allowing their members to vote on the package. SAG-AFTRA never made a specific demand on stunt coordinators, so that claim by the union is incorrect." 

Singer also suggests that "only about 20-25% of videogames use union talent."

In response, SAG-AFTRA thereafter released a statement via email which says the union "has not received a fair offer that would resolve our negotiations" while remaining committed to ascertaining an "equitable solution" for its members.

It reads as follows: 

"We know where our members stand, and we will put a deal in front of the SAG-AFTRA membership when we have an agreement our committee can recommend.

"Their attempt to characterize their offer to make “additional compensation” payments at the time of session as equivalent to our “contingent compensation” proposal is disingenuous and misleading. These employers know full well that our issue is the creation of secondary payments that allow our members to share in the success of the most successful games. The employers’ offer purposely does not do that.

"The video game companies claim they 'did everything in their power' to reach an agreement with us. In fact, we accepted their offer of an upfront payment option in order to avoid triggering any secondary payments. This would have allowed them to preserve their existing compensation practices.

"We simply asked to include secondary payments as an option in the agreement. This would allow other producers to avoid those upfront costs by agreeing to share their prosperity on the back end -- if their game was successful. The game companies we are negotiating with adamantly refused to allow such an option to exist in the contract. That is why we find ourselves at such an impasse.

"What the employers dismissively characterize as a strike over “terminology” is actually a strike over the respect and compensation that professional performers deserve.  Secondary payments are what enable professional performers to survive between jobs and reflect the respect they earn for contributing their creativity, talent, voices and likenesses to the games they help bring to life.

"Now, management continues to ignore the SAG-AFTRA members who lend their voices to the industry's greatest games."

Naturally, this story is ongoing therefore we'll update in the event of new developments. 

Original Story: 

Videogame voice actors and motion capture performers have elected to go on strike after the union representing them, SAG-AFTRA, was unable to reach an agreement with major publishers on a new contract. In a strike notice bulletin, the union has called on its members to "withhold performing services and auditioning for work under the Interactive Media Agreement," including voice acting, mo-cap, background work, and consenting to the re-use of prior work, as of midnight on October 21.   

SAG-AFTRA said in an email sent to its members that negotiations on a new deal, which have been underway since early 2015, are hung up primarily on two issues: transparency and secondary compensation. "While the companies are willing to disclose potentially objectionable material that may be involved in the role, they refuse to tell the performer’s agent what game the actor will be working on. This keeps the performer from being able to make an educated decision about whether to take job. This is unheard of in any of our other contracts," the union wrote.   

"Regarding secondary compensation, employers have offered to give actors an upfront bonus based on number of sessions worked, starting at the second session worked. The negotiating team is willing to agree to their proposal, as long as secondary compensation is an option," it continued. "In other words, an employer would have the option to buy out an actor by paying a bonus upfront or, if they prefer, they would have the option to pay a bonus after the game releases, if the game happens to sell more than 2 million units. The employers have refused to consider this option, excluding games from union talent if they are unable to afford the upfront bonus structure." 

Another major consideration is the simple fact that the current Interactive Media Template is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 years old. The requirements of videogame performers have changed dramatically over the past two decades—20 years ago, the mere presence of voices in a game was worthy of a front-of-box blurb—yet "this agreement is still the template we use today," the union said. 

The good news for gamers is that, at least in the short-term, the disruption will be minimal. The LA Times says less than 25 percent of games on the market feature performers represented by SAG-AFTRA, and the strike will only apply to games that went into production after February 17, 2015, and only from these publishers:  

  • Activision Productions, Inc.
  • Blindlight, LLC
  • Corps of Discovery Films, Inc.
  • Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.
  • Disney Character Voices, Inc.
  • Formosa Interactive LLC
  • Insomniac Games, Inc.
  • Interactive Associates, Inc.
  • Take 2 Productions, Inc.
  • VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.
  • WB Games, Inc.

More information about the strike, including a schedule of negotiations and the union's demands, can be found at sagaftra.org.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.