Recently, Raven Software’s Quality Assurance team formed the Game Workers Alliance and demanded its parent company, Activision Blizzard, recognize the union. The deadline for this recognition has come and gone, and Activision Blizzard has refused to recognize the union on its terms, forcing the GWA to take its petition to the National Labor Relations Board.
This situation first began when Call of Duty developer Raven Software fired a dozen temp workers right before the holiday season, prompting a legion of employees from across Raven Software and Activision Blizzard King to strike in solidarity. The strike lasted for almost two months, with minimal recognition from ABK, and ended with Raven QA’s formation of the Game Workers Alliance.
With the union’s formation, the Raven and ABK employees ended their strike, pending Activision Blizzard’s recognition of the newly-formed union. However, Activision Blizzard allowed the deadline of recognition to pass, only to later state in a statement it “could not reach an agreement” with the GWA and the Communication Workers of America–the largest media union in the United States, which the GWA will be affiliated with, inviting it to bring its petition to the NLRB to force an election. It has since done so, meaning the fledgling union’s fate is currently in the NLRB’s hands.
We expect that the union will be moving forward with the filing of a petition to the NLRB for an election. If filed, the company will respond formally to that petition promptly. The most important thing to the company is that each eligible employee has the opportunity to have their voice heard and their individual vote counted, and we think all employees at Raven should have a say in this decision.
This story gets stranger still. After weeks of silence from Activision save token statements, Raven Software suddenly announced a drastic shift in its striking QA department a day before the recognition deadline; instead of Raven QA being a separate entity, the QA specialists would be embedded within specific teams, meaning art QA would be with the art team, audio with audio, and so forth. Supposedly, this reorganization is to streamline production of its projects–a sentiment corroborated by other game developers, many of which have studios with embedded QA personnel–but the former Blizzard QA engineer, union activist, and founder of A Better ABK Jessica Gonzalez can’t help but sense ulterior, union-busting motives from the decision.
Only Activision Blizzard knows why it refused to recognize the Game Workers Alliance union in a quick, private manner and instead chose to send this to the next level. Most assume ABK believes the 34-person union will not have enough weight as a bargaining unit, and hope the NLRB will deny its petition because of it. It is possible Activision is hoping to delay the QA department’s unionization efforts by splitting it up, and hopes it can satisfy its demands through other measures while avoiding the recognition of a labor union–or at least delay it until Microsoft could intervene after its takeover is complete.
However, the Game Workers Alliance has not been deterred by Activision’s attempts to outlast it. Backed by A Better ABK and its still-growing $377,000 strike fund, the fledgling union is ready to keep fighting until it can become recognized as the first union at a publicly traded video game publisher, even if it means more strikes and demands.