The Game Workers Alliance, the union of quality workers at Activision subsidiary Raven Software, has won their union vote. The votes were tallied today and the union got 19 out of 22 votes with two contested ballots. The Election Makes The Game Workers Alliance The First Union For Activision Blizzard And Only the second formal union in the US video game industry†
The vote is the culmination of months of organizing and a seemingly concerted effort to break unions on behalf of Activision Blizzard. In December, after 12 QA employees were told they would be fired in January, QA employees launched a strike that turned into a five-week strike in Wisconsin-based Duty support studio. At the end of that strike, the remaining QA workers formed the Game Workers Alliance in conjunction with the Communication Workers of America.
Activision Blizzard was persistent in its efforts to thwart the union movement. Days after the GWA was formed, Raven QA employees were broken from their single department and split into multiple teams. The company also failed to voluntarily recognize the GWA, triggering the election process. During that time, the company petitioned the NLRB to determine that the voting unit should consist of all Raven Software employees rather than just the QA employees attempting to unionize, which is the majority needed. to formally elect a union might have been diluted.
In April of this year, Activision Blizzard converted more than 1,000 temporary and contract employees to full-time and awarded them a minimum base salary starting at $20/hour. Although all QA employees at Raven had already been converted to full-time status, they were told they would not qualify for minimum wage. In an email to the company, Raven studio head Brian Raffel wrote, “Through direct dialogue with each other, we’ve improved pay, expanded benefits and provided professional opportunities to attract and retain the world’s best talent.”
Raffel’s language praised the corporate line Activision Blizzard has used since the union process began — that employees can get benefits they seek only through “direct dialogue” with their employer. It’s language Tom Smith, director of the national organization at CWA, has called “the most tired anti-union talking points straight out of the union-breaking script.”
A week before the vote was due to begin, Activision Blizzard asked the NLRB to reconsider its decision to hold the vote, a request that was denied.
In a completely separate but related case, the NLRB said it has evidence that the Duty publisher has violated labor laws. In a report by Bloomberg, the NLRB said Activision Blizzard threatened employees by declaring they could not discuss wages, hours or benefits and implemented restrictive social media policies that also infringed employees’ protected organizational rights. The news broke hours before the union vote was read out loud, and if the company doesn’t settle, the NLRB has said it will formally file a complaint. Activision Blizzard has denied the claims.
Today, despite the enormous efforts of their employers, union voters were finally able to exercise their protected right.