Activision Blizzard’s QA Workers Win A Historic Decision

A historic decision was made as QA workers for Activision Blizzard, Raven Software, passed the vote to become unionized, which could change game design forever.

By Jason Collins | Updated

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It’s a small win for QA workers everywhere since their colleagues at Raven Software, a game developing subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, voted in favor of forming a union, the first of its kind at Activision Blizzard. The group, called Game Workers Alliance, will move into contract negotiations with Activision Blizzard, supported by the Communications Workers of America’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees. And though it’s a small win for QA workers worldwide, it’s a historic victory for QA employees in Activision Blizzard and the gaming industry overall.

According to Polygon, the nearly 30-person group mailed ballots to the National Labor Relations Board in April, leading to Monday’s official count. The vote counts certified Activision Blizzard’s first game development union, with nineteen workers voting “yes” and only three votes against the union. As stated above, the Game Workers Alliance will move into contract negotiation with the company, and though their demand remains unknown for the time being, Raven Software QA workers are likely to demand equal treatment Activision Blizzard recently granted its QA workers.

Quality assurance testers at Raven Software started their union push in January this year, asking the company to voluntarily recognize the union, which, at the time, had the support of a staggering 78% of Raven Software QA workforce. For those new to the topic, QA testers have been historically overworked and underpaid at Activision Blizzard and numerous other gaming giants, with many of them suffering through disrespectful treatment, unfair working conditions, and substandard pay, only to be able to put “Activision Blizzard” on their resume.

Interestingly enough, Activision Blizzard announced the restructuring of the QA sector, promising better working conditions and better pay for their Quality Assurance employees, and the company has since followed through with its promise. The only problem was that the massive restructuring didn’t include Raven Software employees, who were at the time still pushing for unionization. Initially, Blizzard intended to include Raven Software’s QA workers in their restructuring, which would disperse union-eligible workers across other departments — a master tactician move of Activision Blizzard.

However, the company’s actions were recognized, at least partially, as an attempt to thwart the Raven Software QA workers from unionizing. Of course, Activision Blizzard denied such characterizations, stating that its offer brings Raven into alignment with best practices offered to other subsidiaries. Since Raven’s QA workers continued to push for union, Activision Blizzard hasn’t offered the same working conditions they offered other subsidiaries, citing a legal obligation under the National Labor Relations Act.

Furthermore, Activision Blizzard tried to dispute voting efforts, arguing that the redefined structure of QA workers redefines the terms of union-eligible employees. This meant that the entire company comprised of approx. 230 people should vote, which could throw a wrench in Raven Software QA workers’ unionization effort. Luckily, the NLRB rejected AB’s claim before setting a date for Monday’s vote, giving voting rights to the initial 30-ish QA workers from Raven Software.

As stated above, the Game Workers Alliance is the first group of employees to unionize under Activision Blizzard, and their success is likely to inspire other QA workers across the industry. It’s important to note that unionization in the gaming and tech industry in North America is highly frowned upon by the employers since there aren’t clearly established metrics upon which to base an individual’s performance — allowing them to exploit workers in the IT and software industries.