Los Angeles (May 24, 2005) – Referendum materials for a possible work stoppage against video game companies were mailed today to approximately 1,900 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and 1,000 American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) members who have earnings under union contracts governing the video game industry.
The previous three-year interactive game contracts expired in December 2004, and negotiations between the unions and producers on new three-year deals began on February 15, 2005. But after two extensions and repeated bargaining sessions, the unions broke off talks on May 13 over the refusal of the video game companies to consider any profit-sharing options for actors. The concept of profit-sharing, or residuals, is widely accepted throughout the entertainment industry. Additionally, last year, nine of the top ten best-selling video games were produced under union contracts. Despite these facts, the companies refused even a modest profit-sharing proposal to apply only to games that sell more than 400,000 units, which, in 2004, would have impacted less than 30 games in all.
Following the break-off in talks, caucuses of the affected members were held in various key cities. In order to secure final authorization for a work stoppage, both unions must meet constitutionally required “super majorities” through the referendum process. If the required thresholds are met, elected bodies of each union – in this case, SAG’s National Executive Committee and AFTRA’s Administrative Committee – will meet to formally authorize a strike.
The presidents of both unions sent cover letters to their respective memberships urging them to vote so that the negotiating committee “understands the wishes and wills” of the performers who do this work.
The SAG ballots carry a strike endorsement from SAG’s National Executive Committee, while the AFTRA Administrative Committee chose a neutral stance. “Pro” and “Con” statements, along with a summary of the producers’ “last, best and final offer” are also included in the packet. Members belonging to both unions can cast two ballots, one for each union. A majority “no” vote, or a “yes” vote of less than 75 percent in SAG or 66.7 percent (two-thirds) in AFTRA, will require the negotiating committee to either attempt a return to the table or reconsider the offer currently proposed by companies.
The SAG ballots must be received by the designated post office, and the AFTRA online or telephone voting must be completed, not later than June 7, 2005, with results announced that evening.