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Call of Duty QA workers form landmark game industry union

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Raven Software QA workers, who have been on strike since early December, are unionizing. Supported by the Communications Workers of America and the ABK Workers Alliance, the employees have announced plans to launch the Game Workers Alliance, “a movement formed and maintained by game industry employees across multiple disciplines, primarily stemming from the labor rights strike by Raven Software QA employees.”

“We, of Raven Quality Assurance, are reaching out today to announce the formation of our Union, the Game Workers Alliance, and request official voluntary recognition to join CODE-CWA/Communications Workers of America,” the union said in a message to Activision Blizzard management, posted at gameworkersalliance.com. “With leadership’s constant reiteration of investment in the best interests of the employee-base, we offer the opportunity to demonstrate this now by willingly acknowledging the Union composed of those same workers.

“With a Super-Majority of Raven Quality Assurance invested in our organizing efforts, we have found it to be in our own best interests to push forward with unionization. It has become evident that equity will never be achieved without collective bargaining power. The company chose to release twelve integral employees while pointedly discarding critical advisement from Raven’s departmental leadership.”

We are proud to join CWA! https://t.co/ZoJH2qBHNq pic.twitter.com/hKGFhyhLusJanuary 21, 2022

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The CWA issued a similar call for management recognition of the union.

“We ask that Activision Blizzard management respect Raven QA workers by voluntarily recognizing CWA’s representation without hesitation,” Communications Workers of America secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens said in a statement sent to Polygon. “A collective bargaining agreement will give Raven QA employees a voice at work, improving the games they produce and making the company stronger. Voluntary recognition is the rational way forward.”

We’re proud to support and welcome @WeAreGWA— a union with @CWAUnion to demand change at @RavenSoftware & the game development industry as a whole.This is just the beginning. #Solidarity #WeAreGWA #GWAUnion https://t.co/L82XKL3fGuJanuary 21, 2022

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The Game Workers Alliance won’t be the first videogame union in North America: That distinction belongs to workers at indie studio Vodeo, who unionized in December 2021. But it will be the first at a company the size of Activision Blizzard.

As the Washington Post reports, it’s not necessary for Activision Blizzard to recognize the union on its own: A supermajority of employees voted in favor of forming the union, which means it can be formalized through the US National Labor Relations Board even without management recognition. Activision Blizzard leadership has previously discouraged unionization, but also said that it supports employees’ right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act (which, well, it has to). The company’s looming acquisition by Microsoft may open the door to a conciliatory approach, although an Activision Blizzard statement sent to PC Gamer in today downplayed the significance of the union and reiterated the company’s preference.

“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,” a company representative said. “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.

“Across Activision Blizzard, we remain focused on listening closely to our employees and providing the improved pay, benefits and professional opportunities needed to attract and retain the world’s best talent. Over the past couple of years, this has included raising minimum compensation for Raven QA employees by 41%, extending paid time off, expanding access to medical benefits for employees and significant others, and transitioning more than 60% of temporary Raven QA staff into full-time employees.”

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 yetJanuary 21, 2022

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The Raven strike began on December 6, when members of the studio’s quality assurance team walked off the job to protest Actvision Blizzard’s decision not to renew the contracts of 12 QA workers. A few days later, the employees announced formal strike action, and have been off the job since, but Activision Blizzard has thus far shown no sign of budging on the employees’ demands. The ABK Workers Alliance said earlier this month that the striking workers hadn’t received any sort of formal acknowledgement from upper management.

The Game Workers Alliance gave Activision Blizzard until January 25 to respond to its request for recognition, and said that it will file for election with the NLRB if it fails to do so.

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