Here is a feat of arms that will be etched in the memory of Activision Blizzard employees: this Monday, May 23, the first union in the history of Activision Blizzard was created, thus becoming the second union founded in the United States in the video games. It was the Game Workers Alliance group, created earlier this year and made up of Raven Software employees, that voted in favor of creating this union. A big step forward within Activision Blizzard in this still fraught social and cultural context.
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The Game Workers Alliance officially recognized as a union
For months, the Game Workers Alliance has been fighting for its rights and those of the employees it represents to be heard. This has now been done since the Game Workers Alliance is officially Activision Blizzard’s first union and second in the industry in the United States. The Game Workers Alliance just won the vote held by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with 19 votes out of 22.
The group, which brings together quality assurance workers from the Raven Software studio, was initially formed after the announcement of 12 layoffs in this department in December 2021. A 5-week strike followed that led to the creation of the Game Workers Alliance in partnership with the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
The development of this organizing movement was no small feat, and Activision Blizzard management tried to obstruct the Game Workers Alliance on several occasions. At the beginning of the year, the employees responsible for creating this union, still unofficial, had been separated and distributed in different departments. The unofficial recognition of the Game Workers Alliance by Activision Blizzard thus triggered the election process with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
To minimize the chances of union recognition, Activision Blizzard requested that the voting unit be made up of a large portion of Raven Software employees and not just members of the QA department. By early April, the group had also converted more than 1,000 temporary and contract workers into full-time employees with an increase in the minimum wage to $20 an hour. While Raven’s QA employees are already full-time employees, they have not benefited from the minimum wage increase. Brian Raffel, head of studio at Raven, said:
“Through direct dialogue between us, we improve salaries, expand benefits and provide professional opportunities to attract and retain the best talent in the world. »
In response, Tom Smith, national director of Communications Workers of America, called the remarks “the most frayed anti-union talking points straight out of the anti-union script.” Anyway, the vote finally passed, and the Game Workers Alliance spoke to The Verge about winning:
“Our greatest hope is that our union will inspire the growing movement of workers who are organizing in video game studios to create better games and build workplaces that reflect our values and empower us to take action. We look forward to working with management to positively shape our working conditions and the future of Activision Blizzard through a strong union contract. »
The start of a new confrontation between Activision Blizzard and this union organization
Activision Blizzard spokeswoman Jessica Taylor also spoke about this vote on behalf of the company and Bobby Kotick’s group strategy seems pretty offensive:
“We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether to support or vote for a union. We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio, which has approximately 350 people, should not be made by 19 Raven employees. »
Observations are undoubtedly intended to discredit official recognition of this union which remains an extremely rare and symbolic event in the United States. Towards the end, Activision Blizzard sought to undermine this project, in particular asking the NLRB to reconsider the organization of the vote, and this is what another Bloomberg report revealed.
Hours before voting began, the National Labor Relations Board said Activision Blizzard had violated labor laws. The group allegedly threatened employees with a ban on discussing wages, hours or working conditions and implemented a restrictive social media policy that also interfered with employees’ protected organizing rights. Activision Blizzard quickly denied these claims, but the NLRB can still file a complaint against the recently acquired Microsoft Gaming group.
Recognition of this union is an unprecedented step for a group as important as Activision Blizzard. Unionization movements are increasingly important in the industry, but also in Apple or Google. The social and cultural issue is essential for many employees who have struggled for years to make their voices heard and the consequences of this omerta have been exploding for several months.
Happy union day! We won! pic.twitter.com/nzJ4A3J3RB
— Game Workers Alliance 💙#WeAreGWA (@WeAreGWA) May 23, 2022