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Voice actors declare strike against video game companies

SAG-AFTRA represented actors want change

After a week of negotiations between actors union SAG-AFTRA and various video game companies, the voice acting community has declared a strike against some of the biggest publishers and developers in the industry.

SAG-AFTRA — the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists — released a statement just after midnight on Friday morning declaring the strike against some companies, including EA, Activision, Disney Character Voices and Take-2 Interactive Software. According to SAG-AFTRA, after 19 months of unsuccessful negotiations, striking was the only viable option left to ensure their concerns about safer work conditions for the voice acting community was met.

"It's time for video game employers to take our concerns seriously and negotiate a modern contract based on actor safety, industry precedent and best practices," Ray Rodriuez, SAG-AFTRA's chief contracts officer, said.

Voice actor Keythe Farley reiterated that actors don't want to go on strike, but said that after close to two years of trying to renegotiate contracts, this was the only way to have their voice heard. This not only includes safer working conditions — there have been reports of voice actors seriously damaging their vocal cords because of strenuous and extensive recording sessions — but also an increase in the money they earn from projects.

SAG-AFTRA is demanding a reasonable bonus for every two million copies of a game sold, upfront conversations with producers about projects they're working on and concerns from actors about working conditions taken seriously.

"This group of video game employers knowingly feeds off other industries that pay these same performers fairly to make a living," a statement from SAG-AFTRA reads. "This represents a 'freeloader model of compensation' that we believe cannot and should not continue."

A group representing various game publishers and developers issued its own response to the union's strike threat earlier this week, chiding the organization for its actions and calling it a self-defeating gesture. The group added that going on strike would only further "harm their membership," reminding the union that SAG-AFTRA only represents about 25 percent of actors working in the industry.

Some of those members, however, include well known talents like Jennifer Hale, who voiced Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, and David Hayter, best known for his work as the voice of Snake in Metal Gear Solid. Both actors voiced their support for the strike earlier this week.

SAG-AFTRA members will picket in front of EA's offices in Playa Vista, California, starting Oct. 24.