A group of quality assurance employees at Raven Software have officially voted in favor of unionization with the National Labor Relations Board, with a final vote total of 19 for and three against.
The vote count was announced today over an official webcast meeting. Approximately 28 employees were considered eligible to vote, 24 votes were submitted, and two of the votes were challenged and rendered invalid. The remaining group voted to legally form the Game Workers Alliance, making it the first North American video game union at a AAA gaming company. Indie studio Vodeo Games unionized late last year.
This move legally allows members of Game Workers Alliance to bargain with Activision Blizzard management over their employment contract, a process we are likely to see unfold in the coming weeks and months. But at the moment, it seems unlikely that the publisher will make this process easy. The company has reportedly been actively discouraging Raven Software employees from voting in favor of the union both through town halls and official emails, and a Bloomberg report from earlier today indicates that the NLRB is readying an official complaint suggesting their threats were illegal union-busting.
“Our biggest hope is that our union serves as inspiration for the growing movement of workers organizing at video game studios to create better games and build workplaces that reflect our values and empower all of us,” said Game Workers Alliance in an official statement. “We look forward to working with management to positively shape our working conditions and the future of Activision Blizzard through a strong union contract.”
Raven QA’s road to unionization has in the news since December of last year, when Activision Blizzard laid off ‘at least a dozen’ Raven Software quality assurance contractors amid a studio restructuring. Remaining members of the QA team subsequently held a walkout to protest the sudden layoffs, gaining the support of a number of other Activision Blizzard employees across multiple studios.
The QA team maintained a strike for several weeks, demanding full-time positions for members of the Raven QA department, including those who were let go. However, it clarified that In late January, a group of QA employees announced it would unionize with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). This was immediately followed by Activision Blizzard splitting 23 of its QA testers across various departments across the studio in a move that the CWA suggested was an attempt to dilute the group of potential unionizers. It also converted over 1,000 Activision Blizzard contractors to full-time employees, including pay raises and benefits, but clarified that unionizing workers would not be included in this group. Two days later, Activison Blizzard said it would not voluntarily recognize the union, forcing a vote. The vote took place by mail over the last several weeks, with the final count occurring today.
In January, Microsoft announced it would acquire Activision Blizzard, though Microsoft has since said it “will not stand in the way” of a potential Activision Blizzard union. And as all this is happening, Activision Blizzard remains entangled in a series of lawsuits and exposes accusing it of harassment and unfair treatment of women employees, as well as heightened legal scrutiny from a number of other directions including the SEC and various New York City funds.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.
Updated 2:22pm PT with official statement from Game Workers Alliance.