Five weeks after dozens of quality assurance workers at Raven Software, a studio owned by Activision Blizzard that primarily contributes to Call of Duty like Warzone, went on strike, those same workers have now announced the formation of a union. With the assistance of Communication Workers of America, the workers are calling themselves the Game Workers Alliance Union, and asking Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognize the union.
Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a representative told Bloomberg it was “carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition from the CWA, which seeks to organize around three dozen of the company’s nearly 10,000 employees."
Update: Activision Blizzard passed on the following statement in full:
“Activision Blizzard is carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition from the CWA, which seeks to organize around three dozen of the company’s nearly 10,000 employees. While we believe that a direct relationship between the company and its team members delivers the strongest workforce opportunities, we deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union.
Across Activision Blizzard, we remain focused on listening closely to our employees and providing the improved pay, benefits and professional opportunities needed to attract and retain the world’s best talent. Over the past couple of years, this has included raising minimum compensation for Raven QA employees by 41%, extending paid time off, expanding access to medical benefits for employees and significant others, and transitioning more than 60% of temporary Raven QA staff into full-time employees.”
“In the video game industry, specifically Raven QA, people are passionate about their jobs and the content they are creating,” said Becka Aigner, QA functional tester II at Raven in a press release. “We want to make sure that the passion from these workers is accurately reflected in our workplace and the content we make. Our union is how our collective voices can be heard by leadership.”
In the video game industry, quality assurance is often overlooked, but crucial to the development of games, especially today’s popular online experiences. Quality assurance roots out bugs and glitches, the problems that frequently create headaches for players.
A strike fund to support the ongoing efforts by Raven’s workers has raised nearly $400,000.
If you work at a video game company and are talking about (or thinking about talking about) unionization, I want to hear what those conversations are like. My secure email is email@example.com and my Signal number is 224-707-1561.
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced its intentions to purchase Activision Blizzard in a massive $68.7 billion dollar deal. If the union is successful, it would later have to negotiate with Microsoft.
The formation of a union comes in the wake of several public protests related to Raven and Activision Blizzard. Last summer, the state of California sued Activision Blizzard after a two-year investigation, exposing, among many things, a “frat boy” culture. Then, this past December, Activision Blizzard unexpectedly laid off a number of quality assurance testers at Raven not long after a number of them had moved to Wisconsin, where Raven is located.
Support for labor organizing is on the rise in video games, following the formation of North America’s first video game developer union, and an industry poll suggesting a majority of game developers would support a broader shift towards unionization.