The LCS Players Association and the Americas VALORANT Player Association both seek to provide support to North American League of Legends and VALORANT players and player rights, with both groups maintaining a communicative relationship with Riot Games. But one of the association’s leaders says Riot won’t commit to being at the table for collective bargaining or unions.
When asked about forming a proper union during an AMA on the VALORANT competitive subreddit today, Phil Aram, executive director of the LCSPA, said that while unions are great, they ultimately won’t accomplish much without Riot’s involvement.
“Unionization would have little benefit to players unless Riot was a part of the process as a joint employer – something they’ve not shown interest in,” Aram wrote. “Without them at the table, any negotiation between teams and players has little impact because Riot owns the league and the IP, so they can veto or force us to change anything we do in collective bargaining unless they’re made to be at that table.”
For context, there are key differences between what a players association and a union can do, and the biggest one without a doubt is the ability to engage in collective bargaining. A union can use collective bargaining to acquire equitable compensation and benefits, and form agreements between players, teams, and the league outlining terms and conditions of employment. But as Aram notes, with Riot choosing not to be involved, it doesn’t have to agree to any collective bargaining agreements, even if both players and teams agree on them.
Earlier this year, the LCSPA outlined a list of requests for Riot to abide by in the wake of reports that players were considering walking out in protest of changes to the NACL. But without collective bargaining, nothing forced Riot to meet those demands, and Riot even attempted to push teams to bring in “scab lineups” in response.
Aram told Dot Esports that getting Riot to come to the table “would likely require National Labor Relations Board intervention and a legal case similar to the NCAA case involving USC collegiate athletes.” Aram said this path would be a “long and costly process.”
In the same AMA, though, Taylor Broomall, program manager for the AVPA, noted that Riot “has been communicative” with the AVPA and gave credit to the VALORANT esports team for listening and taking action in the way it did with The Guard situation. Broomall said “multiple meetings, chat groups, and emails each week” between the association and the NA VALORANT team have taken place, but also said situations like the original announcement regarding The Guard could have been avoided.