Update: On October 2, SAG-AFTRA issued a lengthy response to Gearbox's statement via VG247, claiming that Gearbox was unwilling to sign the union's contract and that "employers in Texas[...] routinely work under SAG-AFTRA agreements with no legal obstacle at all." The original article continues below.
Though Gearbox's Randy Pitchford originally said Troy Baker turned down the opportunity to reprise the role of Rhys in Borderlands 3, it appears that Texas labor laws tilted Gearbox's casting process against Baker because of his union membership.
After Baker told our sister site VG247 that he couldn't take a role in Borderlands 3 because Gearbox "wouldn't go union," Gearbox issued a statement to VG247 pointing to Texas' right-to-work laws as the reason why the company halted negotiations with Baker:
"Troy is an exceptional talent and we were disappointed that he declined to partner on Borderlands 3 after being offered the part. We wish him the best and hope he knows the offer to collaborate with him still stands. Gearbox is a Texas company and is bound by Texas law-which means that a person cannot be denied employment because of membership or non-membership in a labor union or other labor organization.
As a talent-owned and talent-led organization, Gearbox enthusiastically works to ensure our pay and working conditions meet or exceed union standards. We also believe strongly in hiring local voice actors whenever we can which is why we're thrilled Troy's career really took off after working with us."
A representative of SAG-AFTRA, Baker's union, issued a statement to Polygon in response to the news. "The misguided decision by Gearbox to deny their performers the opportunity to have fair union wages, a safe workplace and the possibility of health care coverage for their families, is unfortunate," reads the statement. The union maintains that after Gearbox offered the role to Baker, the developer "refused and disengaged" while discussing union terms.
Right-to-work laws are framed as protections for individual workers regardless of whether they choose to join a union, but serve to weaken organized labor by way of preventing unions from collecting dues and barring companies from agreeing to exclusively use union labor. As a member of SAG-AFTRA, Baker cannot agree to any non-union acting work. If Gearbox had agreed to union terms, Baker and every other actor participating in Borderlands 3 would need to have been a union member, and Gearbox could then be sued for violating Texas law by refusing to hire non-union actors.
Baker originated the role of Rhys in Telltale Games' Tales From the Borderlands. In Borderlands 3, Rhys is played by Ray Chase, who also voiced Noctis in Final Fantasy XV.
If you're still working your way through Borderlands 3, want to scope out the rest of its voice acting cast, or just need the latest Shift Codes, check our our guides section.