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SAG-AFTRA calls for strike authorization vote against video game companies

Dascha Polanco, SAG-AFTRA executives Rebecca Damon, Ezra Knight and Fran Drescher

Dascha Polanco, left, with SAG-AFTRA executives Rebecca Damon, Ezra Knight and President Fran Drescher at a rally held outside City Hall in New York. (Stephen Battaglio / Los Angeles Times)

SAG-AFTRA members will vote starting next week on whether to authorize union leaders to call a strike against video game companies, in the latest sign of spreading labor unrest in the broader entertainment sector.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said it’s been nearly a year since its contract with video game companies was extended from its expiration date.

The guild leadership’s call for a strike authorization vote comes after the union’s film and TV actors went on strike in mid-July, joining Writers Guild of America-represented screenwriters who have been on the picket line since early May.

For video game performers, SAG-AFTRA is seeking wage increases and protections against the use of artificial intelligence.

The union said its last contract with the video game companies, negotiated in 2017, did not address key issues including AI — a major issue brought up during the current dual Hollywood strikes, where film and TV actors and writers have expressed concerns about the technology encroaching on their jobs.

“Once again we are facing employer greed and disrespect,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher in a statement. “Once again artificial intelligence is putting our members in jeopardy of reducing their opportunity to work. And once again, SAG-AFTRA is standing up to tyranny on behalf of its members.”

Read more:What to know about the SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike

If those under the interactive contract go on strike, it would mark the first time since October 2016. During that strike, SAG-AFTRA targeted 11 companies, including divisions of Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Take Two, Insomniac Games, Warner Bros. and Disney.

Audrey Cooling, spokesperson for the video game producers who are party to the Interactive Media Agreement said the companies “all want a fair contract.”

“We are negotiating in good faith and hope to reach a mutually beneficial deal as soon as possible,” Cooling said.

Postcards with voting information will be mailed to eligible voting members on Tuesday and voting will close on Sept. 25 at 5 p.m., the union said.

Read more:Why Hollywood’s labor nightmare won’t end soon: frustration, fear and mistrust

SAG-AFTRA said in a message posted on its website, “The negotiating committee and National Board unanimously agreed that the union should have a member-approved strike authorization in hand when bargaining resumes on Sept. 26.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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