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Actors' Unions Poll Members Concerning Potential Strike Against Video Game Companies

25 May, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner

Leadership of the unions that represent movie and TV actors are asking their members to vote on whether to strike against video game companies that have refused to negotiate for residuals.

Balloting began May 25 in a vote involving 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.

Previous three-year interactive game contracts expired last December, and negotiations between the unions and producers that began February 15 broke down May 13. The unions, which late last year had to forego DVD residuals and settle for increases in health-care contributions from the producers' guild, appear determined to establish a beachhead on the gaming front.

According to SAG, nine of the top 10 best-selling video games last year were produced under union contracts. But the game companies have refused all profit-sharing proposals, including a compromise to apply only to games that sell more than 400,000 units. In 2004, fewer than 30 games met that threshold.

The guilds held member caucuses in various key cities after the parties hit an impasse, but guild leaders need final authorization for a work stoppage. Both unions must meet constitutionally required “super majorities” through the referendum process: 75 percent of affected SAG members and 66.7 percent of AFTRA members must approve the measure to go forward with a strike. If that happens, SAG's national executive committee and AFTRA's administrative committee will meet to formally authorize a strike. Balloting is open until June 7.

SAG ballots carry a strike endorsement from SAG's national executive committee, while AFTRA leadership did not take sides. "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 may cast two ballots, one for each union.

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