AFTRA Members Ratify New Video Game Agreement

This from AFTRA

Posted November 12, 2009

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) a national union of more than 70,000 professional performers, recording artists and broadcast journalists working in the entertainment and news media announced today that AFTRA members have ratified a new AFTRA Interactive Media Agreement with video game employers. The members of AFTRA’s Interactive Media Steering Committee, and the AFTRA National Board of Directors previously recommended the new contract for approval.

Voting in an affected member referendum mailed on October 29 to more than 2,200 performers nationwide who worked under the AFTRA Interactive Media Agreement during the last three years, AFTRA members approved the new 15-month contract by 66%, a margin of 2-to-1 in favor. Voting took place online or by telephone, and votes were tallied by Washington, D.C.-based TrueBallot, Inc.

The new agreement, which includes a 2.5% increase in minimum session fees on April 1, 2010, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, and remain in full force until March 31, 2009.

“AFTRA members who work on video games do so using a highly specialized set of skills and require unique protections from their union agreement,” said AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon. “The AFTRA National Board of Directors gave performers nationwide an opportunity to review and consider the new terms and exercise their right to vote. I am pleased that our working members have approved this contract and will have continued access to a share of this multi-billion dollar industry.”

“AFTRA members pioneered union contracts in video games in the late 1980s and recognized at that time the potential for union performers in this industry,” said Mathis L. Dunn, Jr., AFTRA Assistant National Executive Director for Commercials, Non-Broadcast and Interactive Media. “Having now ratified a new contract, AFTRA members have once again recommitted themselves to expanding union employment in this growing sector.”

In addition to wage increases, which bring the session fee to $802 for a four-hour session (the highest such session fee in any performers’ union contract), highlights of the new agreement include:
An increase in the AFTRA H&R contribution rate by 0.2%, bringing the total producer contribution rate to 15%, and the establishment of a new cap on H&R contributions in the amount of $125,000, both effective January 1, 2010.

The achievement, for the first time in any contract, of an automatic $100 liquidated damages payment when a producer fails to provide advance notice of vocally stressful work.

Preservation of two fundamental principles: 1) full union coverage of all performers who render services in Interactive games, and 2) retention of the additional payment performers receive for “Remote Delivery” (currently 135% of the original session fee).

The establishment of a new category of performance called “Atmospheric Voices” to generate new work opportunities with minimum payments.

The creation of periodic Union-Industry Cooperative Committee meetings to review and address performers’ concerns regarding work under the new “Atmospheric Voices” provision, or any provision of the contract, during the term of the agreement.
AFTRA members have been working since Jan. 1, 2009, under the terms of a one-year extension agreement to the 2005-2008 AFTRA Interactive Media Agreement, which increased the 2008 session fee rate by 3% to $781.75.

This was one of the bigger con jobs in AFTRA’s History. The current leadership denied the voices of the working actors in this field–who voted overwhelmingly in caucuses to reject this contract which allowed employers to get twenty voices of 300 words, or less, per voice for a session ($802 dollars) fee. This, while under the current contract an actor would have received $3208 dollars for doing the same amount of voices. How did they do this? They did it using phone calls targeting those who have little experience in this field, and by downplaying the twenty voice per session fee aspect of the contract (Just has they did in the press release above,) and by denying those Hollywood interactive voice actors, who voted 75-1 against the contract, a minority report in this referendum.

Know this: These are bad people. Their agenda has nothing to do with serving their own membership, by allowing them to hear both sides of the debate on this contract, but, rather, it has to do with an agenda of self-interest–no matter who gets hurt.

It’s no secret why AFTRA has completely taken over the jurisdiction in this market and cable. When a labor union, like AFTRA, is willing to sell out its own members, it will have plenty of takers.

What next with the SAG Interactive contract, which was overwhelmingly rejected in caucuses in Los Angeles and San Francisco (73-11) where 85% of the work is done. Who knows? But there is one thing you can bet the farm on–AFTRA’s leaders will never release statistics on how the various areas voted.

Hell, they will not even tell their own board members the exact vote tally. Of course, as I reported in an earlier story, they’re not shy about asking members how they voted during the referendum process.

What can we expect from SAG’s leadership? Hello! SAG is run by the same AFTRA First people from NY and the branches.

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !