The Game Workers Alliance, a union of quality assurance employees at Raven Software, has successfully voted to be officially recognized by Activision Blizzard. This makes it the second official union in the North American video game industry, after Video game unionization in December 2021, and the first within a major American game publisher.
According to Washington Post, the Milwaukee branch of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counted ballots mailed in by eligible Raven employees. Out of 22 ballots, 19 voted Yes and 3 voted No. Parties have until May 31 to file an objection. If no one does, the result becomes official.
This story began last December in the wake of Activision Blizzard’s sexual misconduct scandal. The publisher unexpectedly laid off 12 Raven QA contract employees, about a third of the department, which included employees who had recently moved into the Wisconsin-based office. Outraged, Raven workers staged a week-long strike that ended when more than 30 employees formed the GWA.
The GWA asked Activision Blizzard to voluntarily acknowledge it by January 25 this year, but the publisher refused, saying the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement. Instead, Activision Blizzard responded by converting all of its US-based contracted QA testers to full-time employees eligible for benefits and pay raises. However, the Raven workers, who had already converted their contract workers to full-time status, were not eligible for wage benefits according to Activision due to “legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Board” This led to the GWA requesting a vote thanks to a favorable ruling from the NLRB. Activision unsuccessfully challenged the process, attempting to have Raven’s entire 230-person team vote rather than the 21 affected QA officers.
In response to today’s vote, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson contacted game informant with the following statement:
“We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether to support or vote for a union or not. We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio, which numbers approximately 350 people, should not be made by 19 Raven employees.
Talks about organizing have increased over the past year due to fallout from Activision Blizzard lawsuits, with more designers encouraging studios to organize. Activision is being acquired by Microsoft for $69 billion. The Xbox maker declared in March that he would respect either of the results of today’s vote.