What a ridiculous week. Activision Blizzard came in on Monday dragging a trail of lawsuits and scandal with allegations of widespread discrimination and harassment, on Tuesday were being bought by Microsoft for $69 billion (£50 billion), and now on Friday they’ve grown a union. 34 quality assurance testers at the Activision Blizzard studio Raven Software, who currently maintain Call Of Duty: Warzone, are forming a union named the Game Workers Alliance. They’re seeking better working conditions in the wake of Raven QA layoffs.
In a letter to Activision Blizzard leadership, the workers say that following the layoffs which started on the 3rd of December, “it has become apparent that the current working conditions have become untenable”. They complain about crunch, broken trust, poor pay relative to others, an expectation to relocate for new positions, and “the continued cultural and ethical conflicts currently circulating the company as a whole.”
Following weeks of strikes by many, now Raven QA are planning to unionise. The Game Workers Alliance plan to form under the Communications Workers of America (CODE-CWA) union. The public letter is signed by 28 people, though Bloomberg report 34 are onboard.
“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,” they letter says. “It has become evident that equity will never be achieved without collective bargaining power.”
They ask for Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognise their union by Tuesday the 25th, else they’ll be filing for an election for the National Labor Relations Board.
Activision Blizzard told Bloomberg they’re reviewing the request. They said in a statement, “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.”
If you’re curious, the GWA laid out their principles in a Twitter thread:
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.
Sustainability: Shortened development timelines sacrifice project quality and damage the mental and physical health of our team. “Crunch” is not healthy for any product, worker, or company. Realistic timelines and development plans are essential to achieving sustainability in the games industry.
Transparency: Leadership must communicate openly and frequently about any decisions that will affect the working life of their employees. Work and quality of life suffer when changes are unpredictable and explanations are withheld.
Equity: Quality Assurance Testers deserve respect, appropriate compensation, and career development opportunities. Quality Assurance is currently an undervalued discipline in the games and software industries. We strive to foster work environments where Quality Assurance Testers are respected and compensated for our essential role in the development process.
Diversity: All voices deserve to be heard. Empowering underrepresented voices is key to fostering a truly creative and successful work environment.
Games industry unions have been growing and spreading in recent years because the industry is an absolute hole on so many levels, but this is quite remarkable. A union forming at such a huge company at such a pivotal time is wild. Good luck to ’em!
The ABK Workers Alliance, a profilic Activision Blizzard employee group, have said Microsoft buying the company doesn’t change their goals and there’s still much to do.