Quality assurance workers at Raven Software, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, are unionizing with the Communication Workers of America to form the Game Workers Alliance — the first group of workers to form a union under Activision Blizzard. The unionized workers are now asking the company to voluntarily recognize the union, which has the support of the majority of Raven Software QA workers — a staggering 78% of the eligible workforce.
According to Kotaku, QA testers that have been historically overworked and underpaid at Activision Blizzard (and every other gaming company) are now looking for recognition from the gaming giant, better pay, and fair working conditions. The formation of this union comes almost eight weeks into the strike and walkouts at Raven Studio, which began on December 6, after a dozen of testers received notice of their contract termination. As reported by Kotaku, Activision Blizzard was supposed to offer full-time employment to said QA workers at Raven Software’s QA department.
This is the third work stoppage since the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit last summer, alleging widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination at Activision Blizzard. In the meantime, the fans of Warzone and Call of Duty games and other games developed and published by Activision Blizzard suffered massive bugs and performance issues since any work on those games has stopped. And while Activision Blizzard treated QA testers as disposable parts of the gaming industry, neglecting the importance of their role in the creative process, the Workers Alliance rode the wave of publicity. They used a massive social media following to crowdfund more than $370,000 to assist with wages during strikes.
It’s worth noting that Activision Blizzard called for a direct relationship between the company and its team members; unionized workers disclosed that they hadn’t had any direct contact with the company’s leadership about their demand regarding the reinstitution of 12 individuals whose contracts were unjustly terminated. According to Communication Workers of America, however, Activision Blizzard hasn’t cooperated with worker-organizers in any way, despite publicly calling for negotiations. Instead, the company allegedly used surveillance and intimidation tactics, including hiring notorious union busters, to silence the workers.
As part of their effort to obtain voluntary recognition, the Workers Alliance wants to work with the company leadership to create the most positive and beneficial work environment for all workers at Activision Blizzard. They said that the same thing applies to Microsoft, whose planned acquisition doesn’t change the union’s plans to seek voluntary recognition. However, the current head of Microsoft Gaming, Phil Spencer, stated that he’s more than happy to have conversations about what empowers QA testers to do their best work, which is admittedly one of the most important factors in the gaming industry.
In all honesty, recognition is a reasonable way forward, and if ABK chooses to recognize the union, they can begin collective bargaining. If not, the union can conduct an election through the National Labor Relations Board. The Game Workers Alliance is giving Activision Blizzard until January 25 to respond to their request for voluntary recognition. As per Activision Blizzard’s representatives, the company is currently reviewing the request.