Until today, not a single major American game developer had a unionized workforce of any kind. Only one remote worker independent studio, called Vodeo Games, voted to form a union last year, although some gaming industry unions and co-ops exist in Canada and abroad.
Raven Software’s union is known as the Game Workers Alliance, and it marks a rare labor victory for the CWA, which has been working for years now to try to organize game studios and fight against worker exploitation.
“Five months ago, we formed the Game Workers Alliance-CWA on the principles of solidarity, sustainability, transparency, fairness and diversity. Activision Blizzard worked tirelessly to undermine our efforts to establish our union, but we persevered,” the GWA said in a statement. “Now that we have won our election, it is our duty to protect these core values upon which rests our union. Our greatest hope is that our union will inspire the growing movement of workers organizing in video game studios to create better games and build workplaces that reflect our values and empower us all. We look forward to working with management to positively shape our working conditions and the future of Activision Blizzard through a strong union contract.”
Raven’s union has been boosted both by the layoffs in the quality assurance department in December and by parent company Activision Blizzard’s ongoing crisis of sexual harassment and discrimination. A California lawsuit filed last summer kickstarted the game’s publisher, leading to numerous other lawsuits, high-profile firings and resignations, leadership reshuffles, employee protests and a movement. increasing unionization.
Earlier Monday, the NLRB found that Activision Blizzard unlawfully threatened employees and violated their rights through intimidation and an overly broad social media policy prohibiting them from discussing work organization, the lawsuit and other related issues. The NLRB plans to sue the company if it does not settle the charges.
It’s been more than four months since quality assurance testers at Activision-owned Raven Software said they had formed a union following a five-week strike to protest layoffs. Since QA testers formed GWA in late January, Activision Blizzard has waged a long anti-union campaign at Raven.
Management split the team and distributed members into different Raven divisions, a tactic GWA members felt was designed to stifle organizing efforts. Activision Blizzard said in April it would convert thousands of full-time contract workers and provide pay raises, but it excluded Raven’s union members from the bump. Later that same month, the company attempted to include all of Raven’s approximately 350 employees in the union vote; the NLRB canceled the measure, as well as future calls trying to block the vote.
“Activision did everything it could, including breaking the law, to try to prevent Raven QA workers from forming their union. It didn’t work out and we are thrilled to welcome them as CWA members,” Sara Steffens, CWA Secretary-Treasurer, said in a statement. “Raven Software’s Quality Assurance Officers are bringing much-needed change to Activision and the video game industry. At this critical time for the company and its employees, these workers will soon have enforceable union contracts and a voice at work. .
A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard said the company was unhappy with the election results and reiterated management’s desire to have included all Raven employees in the vote. “We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether to support or vote for a union or not. We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio, which numbers approximately 350 people, should not be made by 19 Raven employees,” the spokesperson said.
Update 5/24, 10 a.m. ET: Included a statement from Activision Blizzard.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misrepresented the time since Raven’s QA testers formed their union. This story was updated on May 23, 2022.