After five weeks of striking, the QA testers at Raven Software, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, have formed one of the first unions in a AAA game publisher. The union, known as the Game Workers Alliance, was formed in association with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), a labor union that represents telecommunications and digital media workers.
Back in December, 12 QA workers were laid off, sparking a walkout at the Call of Duty support studio. Since then, some members of the QA department engaged in a sustained strike at Raven Software, prompting the creation of a GoFundMe to support the striking members.
“We formed the Game Workers Alliance (CWA) because my colleagues and I want to have our voices heard,” said Brent Reel, a QA lead at Raven, in a CWA press release. The union is asking for formal recognition from parent company Activision Blizzard, who, in recent SEC filings related to the company’s pending acquisition by Microsoft, failed to acknowledge that a strike was taking place.
Activision Blizzard has also been engaged in alleged union-busting activities, with executives imploring workers to “consider the consequences” of signing union authorization cards. Elsewhere in Activision Blizzard, Call of Duty developer Treyarch recently converted all contract employees to full-time positions, prompting questions as to why Raven Software could not do similarly. The formation of the union comes a week before the formal termination of the laid-off workers was to take place on January 28th.
Rich George, senior director of game communications at Activision Blizzard, told The Verge in an email:
“Activision Blizzard is carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition from the CWA, which seeks to organize around three dozen of the company’s nearly 10,000 employees. While we believe that a direct relationship between the company and its team members delivers the strongest workforce opportunities, we deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union.”
A Better ABK, an Activision Blizzard employee advocacy group, tweeted, “We are so incredibly excited for our allies at @WeAreGWA. It has taken months of meticulous planning and careful work to get where we are today, but we couldn’t have done it without each other. Thank you to everyone who has publicly supported us and stay tuned. We’re not done yet.”