Activision Blizzard has been part of the headlines for quite some time. The company got into some deep trouble based on reports of unfair work practices, and that was related to the QA (quality assurance) workers that were not moved over to full-time positions within the company. Even though Activision-Blizzard had agreed to up the pay for their QA workers and hire some 1000 of them to full-time positions, there are a host of other QA and contract workers that have not been given the same treatment. Due to this issue, a collective of QA workers that work for Raven, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, will now vote to become unionized.
Unionizing workers is a huge step for any workforce, and with the Raven workers given the right to vote, should their union be recognized, they can then begin to start negotiations with Activision Blizzard on pay, benefits, and more. The vote to unionize will be taking place on May 23rd. The ballots to unionize are reportedly going to be sent out on April 29th. Most QA and contract workers in the industry are seen as “unskilled” workers, so they are not given the full benefits that other workers receive in gaming studios. This is a touchy topic considering the stringent deadlines placed on the quality assurance workers, which usually leads to the workers having to pull in overtime to make sure a game can be released according to the schedule given. If the QA workers are under the same stress level as the rest of the developers working for the studio, why shouldn’t they be treated with the same respect? Raven Software has chosen to call their union, Game Workers Alliance. You can see the announcement of their ability to unionize below:
The National Labor Relations Board agreed to allow the vote to unionize, based on a ruling agreed upon last Friday. This is great news for those game developers that have worked long hours and have not been properly compensated for their time. Activision Blizzard is also set to attempt to appeal the decision made by the NLRB, though they are likely to not get very far. The studio has been in quite a lot of trouble as of late, so it could be time for the NLRB to back the workers more in this regard. Should the vote to unionize go through, it could truly change the way games are made forever. Companies will have no choice but to work with unions in the gaming industry and provide equal pay for QA workers and contract workers alike. This could mean that the makeup of gaming development could change. It might usher in larger workforces being hired to then get games out quicker. Game development is still tough, but a larger workforce via union delegates could help things.
Activision Blizzard didn’t recognize the QA group’s efforts, which as led the NLRB to step in. Things might have been different for the gaming studio, had they come to some quicker consensus on benefits and pay. Keep your eyes peeled for later in May or early June, as Raven and the Game Workers Alliance votes on the right to unionize within the gaming industry.