Quality assurance workers employed by Raven Software of Middleton have won their union election after a vote count by the National Labor Relations Board concluded on Monday. Their win marks only the second time a union has gained official recognition in the nation’s video game industry.
The election, which was decided by a vote of 19 for organizing and 3 against, is the culmination of a months-long organizing effort that began last year, when a bargaining unit of 34 workers declared their intention to unionize under the name of GWA. .
When Activision Blizzard, the parent company of Raven Software, announced the cut of 12 quality assurance positions in December, GWA members walked out alongside other Raven Software employees in protest. What started as a spontaneous action quickly turned into a 5-week strike outside the studio, which lasted until January of this year.
In April, Activision converted more than 1,000 temporary and contract employees to full-time and gave them a minimum base salary starting at $20/hr. Although all of Raven’s QA employees have already been converted to full-time status, they have been advised that they will not be eligible to receive the minimum wage wage increase.
Activision also embarked on an effort to completely cancel the vote earlier in the year, asking the NLRB to reconsider its decision to set an election date. The petition was rejected by the Council and the final election date of May 23 was confirmed. Separately, the Board filed a series of complaints against the company, alleging that the uneven distribution of wage increases in April constituted an unfair labor practice.
The NLRB further alleged that Activision made threats against employees, saying they could not discuss wages, hours or working conditions and implemented a restrictive social media policy that also interfered with employees’ protected organizational rights. The news came hours before the union’s vote was due to be read aloud, and if the company does not settle, the NLRB said it would formally file a complaint.
Activision is in the midst of a multi-billion dollar takeover by tech giant Microsoft. At a general company meeting, Microsoft executive Phil Spencer promised that the company would recognize the union once the merger is complete.
In a statement to The Verge the Game Workers Alliance wrote: “Our greatest hope is that our union will inspire the growing movement of workers who are organizing in video game studios to make better games and build places. that reflect our values and empower us all. . We look forward to working with management to positively shape our working conditions and the future of Activision Blizzard through a strong union contract.
Reporting courtesy of Sean Hagerup for Labor Radio
Image courtesy of Peter Miller on Flickr