Fall 2016

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12 SAG-AFTRA | Fall 2016 | A Letter from the Executive Vice President R E B E C C A D A M O N "SAG-AFTRA's struggle for fairness is rooted first and foremost in the protection of our members, but it also benefits the community at large." Dear Member, F rom time to time, the labor movement reaches critical junctures. When we look back through history, it's easy to spot these milestones, but at the time, it's often not easy to recognize the change they will bring. I believe SAG-AFTRA's first strike, which targets certain video game developers, could be one of those pivotal moments. In addition to physical and vocal safety concerns, not to mention basic transparency, our members are asking for a very modest bonus for blockbuster games that sell more than 2 million units. It's worth noting that many games are released each year across mobile, PC and console platforms and only a tiny percentage ever see sales that would trigger this payment. Those that do are typically big-budget "triple-A" games made by major corporations. The employers are even offering to pay more upfront, but won't budge on backend payments. You have to wonder why. Not surprisingly, it comes down to management's fear of empowering workers. In 2004, Erin Hoffman, the spouse of an Electronic Arts game developer penned an exposé on the ways the company exploited its workers. During the endless "crunch" periods, "mandatory hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. — seven days a week — with the occasional Saturday evening off for good behavior," she wrote. And of course, as salaried employees, they weren't paid overtime. To SAG-AFTRA members who know their history, all of this may sound a bit familiar. EA did confront the issues and the industry overall has made some improvements. But an article last year in The Guardian revealed that throughout the industry, the culture of long hours continues and managers were using more subtle ways to pressure employees into excessive and exhausting overtime. That's why I'm thankful SAG-AFTRA is ever vigilant in the fight for fair treatment for our members. Sometimes that fight has to take the form of our ultimate action: a strike. Employees who are unionized are always in a stronger position than those who depend on management's goodwill. When considering this video game strike, look at the big picture. When any group of workers demands fair treatment, it can't help but strengthen all workers. Perhaps management's fears are well founded; if SAG-AFTRA's voice actors and performance capture artists obtain residuals from their work, the programmers, artists and animators — who at times sleep under their desks to get a game out on time — might demand their own share of that success. The CEOs and executives of some of these companies are raking in millions in bonuses, yet they would begrudge fair compensation to the very people who create these games. Just look at the lower wages in anti- union, so-called "right-to-work" states, and you can see the effect organizing has on increasing the standard of living for all workers, even those who don't belong to a union. And that's part of the reason we fight. SAG-AFTRA's struggle for fairness is rooted first and foremost in the protection of our members, but it also benefits the community at large. In 2016, being a labor activist in the United States no longer means dodging bullets and batons, but it still takes courage. Whether or not you work the interactive contract, whether you are a broadcaster, recording artist or dancer, I hope you will support this strike not only for your peers, but for all workers. Onward together, Rebecca Damon

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