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A group of employees at Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software won their bid to form a union on Monday. Their union, called the Game Workers Alliance, is the first of its kind among major video game companies in the United States.
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, Raven Software is best known for developing the Call of Duty franchise. Pushes for unionization among quality assurance testers began after the studio fired 12 QA testers in December of 2021.
The group involved in creating the Game Workers Alliance consists of about 30 QA testers, many of whom were moved to different departments as part of an “embedded tester model” shortly after employees filed a unionization petition with the National Labor Rights Board in January. Still, they won their bid with a 19-3 vote in favor of unionization.
According to New York Times journalist Kellen Browning, Activision asserted that a unionization decision should not have been made by only 19 employees. However, the company did not reveal whether it will file a formal objection to the NLRB’s ruling.
Activision has responded, saying that an "important decision" that will affect the entirety of Raven Software "should not be made by 19 Raven employees." Will not say whether they plan to file a formal objection. https://t.co/Ef9z1vtTIY
— Kellen Browning (@Kellen_Browning) May 23, 2022
“We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 employees should not be made by fewer than 10% of Raven employees,” Activision Blizzard spokesperson Jessica Taylor told The Washington Post.
Game Workers Alliance officially becomes a union
The Game Workers Alliance’s formal unionization has come amid the finalization of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which was announced in January as Activision Blizzard faced lawsuits for its “frat boy” work culture.
NLRB prosecutors accused Activision Blizzard of illegally threatening employees through a restrictive social media policy, according to a report from Bloomberg. However, the company denied the allegations.
“Employees may and do talk freely about these workplace issues without retaliation, and our social media policy expressly incorporates employees’ [National Labor Relations Act] rights,” Taylor told Bloomberg.
Now that their unionization efforts have come to fruition, members of the Game Workers Alliance have said they hope other workers throughout the gaming industry will follow their lead in order to make gaming unions more commonplace.
“The outcome of this election, the voice of the people coming together to vote yes for this union, is further validation that even a small group of folks in Madison, Wisconsin, standing together in solidarity can face up against a AAA studio giant like Activision, and come out the other side victorious,” Raven Software QA tester Becka Aigner told The Washington Post. “Now that the fight for recognition is through, we can focus our efforts on negotiations. We’ll fight for respect, fight for better wages, better benefits, better work-life balance, fight for sustainability and job security, and continue to fight for our fellow workers in solidarity.”
Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.