Actors Equity Backs SAG-AFTRA During Insomniac Games Strike

For those unfamiliar with the strike, or unsure why it’s important that Actors Equity backs SAG-AFTRA, give us a moment to fill you in. A lot has happened since October 21st when SAG-AFTRA called for a strike against game companies and their mistreatment of voice actors. Among the things requested in negotiations with the voice actors union was fair compensation, safer work environment, and transparency of the titles they’re working on. The strike has stirred up animosity on both sides as pickets continue to grow and game companies continue to speak up on their side of the argument.

Actors Equity Backs SAG-AFTRA

The story broke of the Actors Equity Association’s (AEA) support a day after strikes began at Insomniac games in Burbank. The association, a labor union created in 1913 to cover the now more than 50,000 stage actors and managers in the industry, told its members not to accept voice-over or performance capture work from any of the struck companies on the list of 11 developers now that Actors Equity backs SAG-AFTRA. AEA Executive Director Mary McColl also encouraged actors to come forward if approached, and for companies to come back to the negotiating table:

“Equity members are reminded that they cannot accept work from these employers, and they should contact Equity immediately if they are offered any such employment … Our union stands in solidarity with and support of its sister union SAG-AFTRA as it fights for a fair contract for voice-over and motion-capture performers.”

The support comes at a time when the strike is beginning to garner more strikers on the line, which can only help. As pressure continues to mount against them from the gaming industry, and companies seek outside work, the support of other actors guilds will ensure the strike is successful. Basically, the more actors involved in the strike, the less talent is available for companies to use for voice acting.

The picketing that began in front of Insomniac Games, developers of titles like Ratchet and Clank and Sunset Overdrive, was met with another back and forth from both sides as SAG-AFTRA had recently called out the industry legal counsle for “spouting debunked talking points instead of helping his clients reach a fair deal with SAG-AFTRA.” In response, Scott Witlin, the game industry’s lawyer had this to say:

“After a month without being permitted to vote on the Companies’ Comprehensive and Enhanced Final Offer, it is not surprising that members want to see the strike come to a conclusion. Nothing would please the Companies more than to have the talented SAG-AFTRA members back at work. It is inexplicable that SAG-AFTRA will not permit a democratic vote on a contract that currently offers its members an immediate 9% wage increase and Additional Compensation of up to $950 per game. How will the members feel when they lose that offer because SAG-AFTRA did not permit a timely ratification? Further the agreement is not ‘decades old.’ The most recent agreement was renegotiated in 2011 and the concepts that we have put on the table is a ground breaking new form of compensation for performers. What SAG-AFTRA is asking for is replicating a decades old structure that does not fit this modern industry.”

This has been an on going battle between strikes and the companies being struck, as both sides have different stories. Game companies continue to try and back down the heat of the strike, while voice actors continue to gain more support, seen with how Actors Equity backs SAG-AFTRA. President of the union, Gabrielle Carteris, had this to say about the endorsement:

“The video game corporations we’re striking have tried to sow divisions among our membership instead of returning to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair contract. Not only are SAG-AFTRA members united in this strike action, but they have the support of their union brothers and sisters from AEA. I want to thank Mary McColl and the AEA leadership for their strong support.”

The 19 month negotiations between the voice-actors union and companies within the gaming industry have been tense and have found little ground. As stated before, the union had requested  fair compensation by way of secondary payments for games that see great success, the ability to know the game an actor will be voicing BEFORE they take the job, and safer work environments that include stunt coordinators and shorter work times to allow vocal cords to heal. In response the legal team offered a 9% pay hike, and have been calling for a vote from union memebers ever since. Scott Witlin had this to say about the fact that Actors Equity backs SAG-AFTRA and the negotiations:

“The AEA and SAG-AFTRA are sister organizations,” he said. “So this is like a political candidate getting the support from his mother.  It is a testament to the weakness of SAG-AFTRA’s position that it took more than 4 weeks to get AEA to endorse this strike.  The same performers to whom we are offering $900 for a day’s work, can be paid as little as $492 for a full week when working under an AEA contract.”

“The AEA’s weighing in on this dispute only highlights how well the SAG-AFTRA negotiators have done in getting the Videogame Companies to put an offer on the table that offers a 9% increase and Additional Compensation of up to $950 per game.  SAG-AFTRA should stop blocking a democratic vote on the Companies’ Comprehensive and Enhanced Final Package Proposal so the strike can end.”

For now it seems the strike will continue into the holiday season, putting many titles on hold as the voice actors remain steadfast. The union continues to call on fans to let the companies know how much the voices mean to them, championing the hashtag #PerformanceMatters. The negotiating committee chair was hopeful and encouraging to fans, believing that they could help make all the difference.

“The holiday season is a great time for SAG-AFTRA to get its message out because this is when gamers are thinking about new titles, and their favorite characters in those games, we’re asking gamers, when you pick up your favorite titles this holiday season, tell the video game corporations how much the voices you hear and the performances you see add to your gaming experience.”

Overall the strike at Insomiac games, following a strike at EA, Warner Bros. and Voicework Productions, has been marked with more success and a larger turn out. Considering that Actors Equity backs SAG-AFTRA over the strike, the union can expect to enjoy more success as strikes continue to move forward. SAG-AFTRA shared live video of the event, with the chant “2-4-6-8 Time to Renegotiate”. You can view the saved live feed here:

We will continue to follow this strike as stories break, and both sides continue to release information. Be sure to keep up with don’t feed the gamers, and check out our opinion piece on why performance matters here: Why Gamers Should Care About the Voice Actors Strike.

What do you think about the strike now that Actors Equity backs SAG-AFTRA in their pursuit for a fair contract? Are your favorite games at stake over this strike? Sound off in the comments below!

 

Charles Douglas734 Posts

Deep in the mountains of the south west lives a man who writes game editorials, makes YouTube Videos, and is an overall mega nerd. An avid believer in Unicorns, and your new all star line backer, Number 34, CHARLES DOUGLAAAAAAASSSS!!!!

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