The U.S. video game industry has its first union.
Quality assurance testers from Raven Software, the Activision studio responsible for maintaining and updating Call of Duty: Warzone, formed the Game Workers Alliance earlier this year. And today, the proposed union went to a vote and passed easily, with 19 QA testers voting for the union and only three voting against, according to Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier.
The successful vote comes about a month after the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Raven QA testers, saying that the employees were eligible to vote for or against creating a union. Activision Blizzard initially did not recognize the union on the grounds that all of the studio’s employees must be part of any potential union and not just QA testers. The NLRB, however, rejected this reasoning following the petition from the Game Workers Alliance.
The now-formal union is the first of its kind under Activision Blizzard, as well as the first union at a major video company in the U.S.
The Game Workers Alliance came about after a round of layoffs late last year, in which several Raven Software employees were let go from the company. This reportedly happened after several of the laid-off QA testers were promised raises and pay restructuring.
Around 30 percent of Raven’s QA team was let go and the backlash to Activision Blizzard’s move was swift. Workers who remained at the studio went on a week-long strike in protest of the move last December. Soon after, the Game Workers Alliance was born.
Activision Blizzard hasn’t been subtle in its attempts to undermine the union forming at Raven Software. Following the initial formation of the Game Workers Alliance, the company announced that over 1,000 part-time and contract-based QA testers across various studios would be converted to full-time employees and receive raises. But, as Bloomberg initially reported, no QA Testers from Raven Software were included in this initiative. Bloomberg also reported today that U.S. labor prosecutors found evidence that Activision Blizzard illegally threatened employees who were part of the union movement.
Now that the NLRB has ruled Raven QA testers are eligible to form a union, and the union has been formally approved through a voting process, the Game Workers Alliance will move into contract negotiations with Activision Blizzard.
Update 7.17pm, May 23: An Activision representative spoke to Axios and repeated Activision’s stance that any union vote at Raven should have been company-wide, despite the NLRB rejecting that argument in April.