Video Game Voice Actor Union Votes To Approve New Deal

Members of SAG-AFTRA overwhelmingly voted to approve the new deal.

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The union that represents video game voice actors today voted to confirm the new deal with video game companies that was announced in September, ending the 11-month strike. Members of the group, SAG-AFTRA, voted 90 percent to 10 percent to approve the deal.

SAG-AFTRA sent out voting cards to around 7,200 members; only 10 percent actually voted, according to the union. The new deal goes into effect on November8 and runs through November 7, 2020. The strike began at the end of October and ran for 11 months, making it one of the longest strikes ever in entertainment and the first for video game performers specifically.

The new deal includes a bonus structure that pays actors extra based on how many sessions they work. This starts at $75 for the first session and runs up to $2,100 after 10 sessions. The bonus payments must be delivered no later than the game's release date. Also in the deal are "transparency provisions" that SAG-AFTRA says will help its members bargain better. As part of this, game companies need to tell actors the code name for the project they are working on, what genre it is, and if it's for a reprisal role or something entirely new. Also, video game companies now need to inform the performers if they will have to use profanity or racial slurs in their sessions. The performers must also be told if a game will have sexual or violent content, and if stunts are required.

Also part of the deal is the provision that video game companies must work with SAG-AFTRA as it pertains to the issue of vocal stress. However, the terms of the deal don't appear to actually require either side to do anything apart from continue to work together on the issue.

"This agreement is the first step towards streamlining the work our members do in the video game industry," SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement. "The deal includes significant improvements in the area of transparency and the payment structure ensures that our members are compensated fairly for their work. I am excited for what this means for our members moving forward."

SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White added, "I'd like to thank our Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez as well as our Interactive Negotiating Committee for leading these negotiations. This negotiation was hard fought and hard won. We achieved a stronger successor agreement and I am proud of the results."

Keythe Farley, the chair of SAG-AFTRA's Interactive Negotiating Committe commented, "The bonus payments we asked for are now part of the video game industry and are a base from which to build upon. I'm excited for all that we have achieved."

SAG-AFTRA made a point to say the video game companies asked for things that they didn't get. These include a provision that would have allowed the companies to fine actors if they showed up late or were distracted during a session. The video game companies also apparently wanted to have in the deal a clause that would have fined performers if they did not "low-paying" sessions for "atmospheric voices." The video game companies also reportedly asked for a provision that would have permitted them to use permanent staff instead of unionized performers for recording sessions.

SAG-AFTRA's strike was against 11 video game companies, including juggernauts like Activision, Warner Bros., Electronic Arts, as well as Insomniac. According to Deadline, only about 25 percent of video games use union voice actors. This was the first strike in the history of video game performers.

Overwatch voice actor Crispin Freeman, who voices Winston, spoke to GameSpot about the strike and why voice actors matter. "We negotiated with them for 19 months in good faith," Freeman said. "It's the longest negotiation SAG-AFTRA has ever done. It was the last thing we wanted to do, but they left us with no choice."

Pickets were held at Electronic Arts, Insomniac, and Warner Bros., while SAG-AFTRA has also organized virtual pickets.

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