“Hey hey, shut it down, L.A. is a union town,” yelled SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris through a bullhorn.
The performers union launched the strike Friday against EA and 10 other videogame makers after negotiations cratered over the key issues of secondary compensation (residuals) and transparency — meaning that the union wants companies to stop being able to hire without identifying the game. Carteris noted that the talks lasted 19 months before collapsing last week.
“Members have been incredibly supportive of the decision to strike,” she told Variety. “These have been very thoughtful negotiations and we’ve been very transparent with our members about our positions.”
More than 96% of those voting among the 5,000 “affected” members — those who have worked on the contract — approved a strike authorization last year.
For their part, reps for the 11 companies held their own news conference Monday at noon in Century City to release copies of the companies’ and the union’s last proposals, which purportedly show that the companies matched SAG-AFTRA’s requests for wages, benefits, and additional compensation before the Union called its strike.
“These proposals exchanged across the table prove the Companies and SAG-AFTRA have largely agreed on the significant issues before us except for the label we have placed on the ‘Additional Compensation,’ which would be paid above and beyond our proposed 9% pay increase,” said Scott J. Witlin of the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, the chief negotiator for the Video Game Companies.
But Carteris and chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez said at the rally that SAG-AFTRA had not reached final agreement on any proposals. “We don’t have a contract,” Carteris added.
Phil LaMarr, a negotiating committee member whose voice credits include “Mortal Kombat,” “Metal Gear,” and “Infamous,” stressed that the decision to go on strike was not taken lightly. “As actors, we spend so little time working that the last thing we want to do is not work when we could be working,” he admitted.
LaMarr also took particular exception to the companies’ assertion that permitting secondary compensation would be unfair to other employees. “What you’re saying is that no one is allowed to get a fair deal, God forbid,” he said.
The action was the first picket for the first strike by the four-year-old SAG-AFTRA. Supporters included members of Local 399 of the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters and a contingent from the Writers Guild of America West — some wearing the ubiquitous red T-shirts from the 2007-08 WGA strike.