Weeks into a walkout, workers at Activision’s Raven Software are reportedly forming the first-ever AAA North American game workers union.
BREAKING: Testers at Raven Software, a division of Activision, say they've formed a union and are asking for voluntary recognition. The 34-person unit is the first-ever union in the big-budget video game industry. Filed to Bloomberg Terminal, story coming shortly.
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 21, 2022
Raven Software workers, mostly QA testers, walked off of the job in early December following a mass layoff of other QA testers at the studio. While it has carried on since, the walkout has had no effect, with none of the previously fired QA testers, who had been contractors, being rehired.
Seemingly in response, a 34-person group of workers, also QA Testers, at Raven Software is forming a union. Called the Game Workers Alliance, the group has already taken to Twitter to explain its principles. Through the union, workers at Raven Software, the primary developer behind the massively popular battle royale title Call of Duty: Warzone, are seeking to reduce crunch, create transparency between leadership and workers, and ensure that Quality Assurance testers receive “respect, appropriate compensation, and career development opportunities.”
Before the newly formed union can accomplish any of its goals, it has to be recognized by Activision. In the same thread on Twitter, the union asks that “Raven Software and Activision leadership voluntarily recognize our union and respect our right to organize without retaliation or interference.”
Coming on the heels of Activision Blizzard’s acquisition by Microsoft, it’s not clear what the response to the Game Worker’s Alliance will be. In the terms of the acquisition, both Activision Blizzard and Microsoft confirmed that neither is engaged with unions and refused to acknowledge any ongoing strike or walkouts, including at Raven Software.
-Solidarity: The voices of workers should be heard by leadership. By uniting in solidarity, we can ensure our message is further reaching, and more effective. (1/8)
— Game Workers Alliance 💙#WeAreGWA (@WeAreGWA) January 21, 2022
It’s worth noting that none of Microsoft’s employees are unionized, and that leadership at the company, including the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, Phil Spencer, doesn’t have much experience with them. In an interview with the The Washington Post, Spencer admitted to as much, saying, “I’m going to be honest, I don’t have a lot of personal experience with unions. I’ve been at Microsoft for 33 years. So I’m not going to try to come across as an expert on this, but I’ll say we’ll be having conversations about what empowers them to do their best work, which as you can imagine in a creative industry, is the most important thing for us.”
A union forming despite the acquisition is unsurprising, at least to those advocating for workers’ rights within Activision Blizzard. In an interview with Digital Trends, Jessica Gonzalez, founder and community organizer of the ABetterABK workers’ alliance, said “the news doesn’t change unionizing efforts. We are still pushing forward.”
Activision Blizzard has reached out to Bloomberg regarding the union’s formation, emphasizing its relatively small size within the company. According to Bloomberg, the publisher is “carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition from the GWA, which seeks to organize around three dozen of the company’s nearly 10,000 employees.”
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