A group of employees at a video game studio that is part of Activision Blizzard has voted to form a union, a first for a major North American video game company.
The vote, which was 19 to 3, affects 28 quality assurance staff at Raven Software, the Wisconsin studio that helps develop the popular Call of Duty game. Workers have voted in recent weeks and the results were tallied by the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. Activision has one week to formally object if it finds grounds for a complaint.
The new union, the Game Workers Alliance, is the culmination of months of labor organization at Activision, which faced mounting pressure from workers to improve working conditions after a lawsuit accused the company of having a sexist culture in which women were routinely harassed.
The organization at Raven, in particular, grew in intensity in December, as quality assurance or QA workers walked out to protest the end of a dozen worker contracts. The Communications Workers of America, a leading technology, media and communications union, helped lead the union effort.
“Our greatest hope is that our union will inspire the growing movement of workers organizing themselves in video game studios to make better games and build workplaces that reflect our values and make us all stronger,” workers of the new union said in a statement. declaration.
Sara Steffens, the CWA’s secretary-treasurer, said she was “thrilled” to welcome the new union and that “these workers will soon have an enforceable union contract and a voice at work.” Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat from Wisconsin, also cheered the new union on Twitter†
Workers in the video game industry have been complaining for years about poor pay, gender discrimination and “crunch” — a term for heavy 12 to 14-hour shifts given to workers rushing to meet deadlines. Those crunches particularly affect QA employees, who say they are often treated as second-class employees. In recent years, employees have started to organize themselves. But until now, none of the major North American video game developers have unionized.
The new union affects only a small group of workers: the 28 QA employees in the Raven studio, which employs several hundred people. Activision, which is currently being acquired by Microsoft for $70 billion, had argued that all employees in the studio should be eligible to vote. That claim was rejected by the NLRB in a hearing in April.
On Monday, Activision reiterated its objection, arguing that the decision to form a union “shouldn’t be taken by 19 Raven employees.” The company declined to say whether it plans to appeal, but only said it was “committed to doing what’s best for the studio and our employees.”
A regional director of the NLRB has upheld the allegations by CWA that Activision violated federal labor law by telling employees not to talk about wages or working conditions; maintaining an “too broad” social media policy; and supervise employees who were involved in ‘protected coordinated activities’. The labor council said it would file a complaint against Activision if it cannot settle the matter.