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Game on for SAG-AFTRA members, who give leaders authority to call a strike over interactive contract

Game on for SAG-AFTRA members, who give leaders authority to call a strike over interactive contract
Members of SAG-AFTRA, the union representing Hollywood actors and other performers, have voted overwhelmingly to give their leaders authority to call a strike on behalf of actors who work in the video game industry. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Tensions are heating up between actors and video game companies.

Members of SAG-AFTRA, the union representing Hollywood actors and other performers, have voted overwhelmingly to give their leaders authority to call a strike on behalf of actors who work in the video game industry.

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The strike authorization vote was approved by a 96% margin, the union said in a statement posted on its website. The vote means the guild's national board can declare a strike should negotiations fail.

Unions often seek strike authorization votes as a tactic to give their leaders leverage in bargaining with employers.

"With this result in hand, the Negotiating Committee will seek to return to the bargaining table and continue to press for a fair resolution on behalf of performers working in video games," the union said.

The so-called Interactive Media Agreement covering actors who work on video games expired in December. Talks were held in February and June but failed to produce a new contract.

Contract talks between the union and game publishers including EA, Activision, Disney and Warner Bros. were held in February and June, but failed to result in an agreement.

As the multibillion-dollar video game industry has grown, blurring the lines between games and movies, actors who play a vital role in bringing the games to life are seeking a larger share of the profits.

Among other things, the union is seeking improved working conditions, such as the use of stunt coordinators to train actors for action scenes, and "performance bonuses" or royalties for actors based on the number of games sold.

"It is simply the idea that, if a video game is wildly successful, actors should share in its financial success," SAG-AFTRA said in its statement. "There is ample precedent for residual income for actors, yet they've historically been extremely difficult to achieve in this contract."

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