On Jan. 21, Call of Duty developer Raven Software’s QA testers announced they have formed a union and are seeking voluntary recognition from Raven’s parent company, Activision Blizzard. “With an overwhelming majority of Raven Quality Assurance investing in our organizing efforts, we have found it in our best interest to continue to organize, workers wrote an open letter to the leadership of Activision Blizzard.
The newly formed Game Workers Alliance, made up of 34 quality assurance workers, asked for recognition to form a union with the Communications Worker of America (CWA) through the end of the business day on Tuesday, January 25th. Activision has now missed that deadline, meaning the union will petition the union to vote National Industrial Relations Committee (NLRB), Reports The Washington Post.
In a statement to PC Gamer on Tuesday, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson confirmed that Activision has chosen not to voluntarily recognize the Game Workers Alliance: “At Activision Blizzard, we deeply respect the right of all employees to make their own decisions about whether to join or not a union. We carefully reviewed and reviewed the CWA’s original motion last week, trying to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have resulted in an expedited election process. Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement.”
The statement went on to say that if the Game Workers Alliance petitions the NLRB for an election, Activision Blizzard “will immediately officially respond to this petition” and that “the most important thing to the company is that every eligible employee have the opportunity to do their.” Voice was heard and their individual voice mattered, and we think everyone at Raven should have a say in that decision.”
If more than 50% of QA workers vote to ratify the union — which sounds likely given they claim to have an overwhelming majority of support — Activision Blizzard will have to enter negotiations with the Game Workers Alliance. Activision Blizzard’s above statement that “all employees at Raven should have a say in this decision” may play a role in the election process. There are only 34 workers in the Game Workers Alliance, but more than 350 employees throughout the studio.
As explained on the NLRB website: “NLRB agents will seek an electoral agreement between the employer, union and other parties specifying the date, time and place of voting, the voting language(s), the appropriate unit, and a method of determining voting eligibility.” If agreement cannot be reached, an NLRB Regional Director conducts a hearing before making a final decision.
Union organization is made more difficult by an organizational change that Raven announced internally on Monday. In an email obtained from polygon, Raven founder and studio head Brian Raffel told staff that “QA colleagues will be embedded directly into various teams across the studio, including animation, art, design, audio, production and engineering,” a transition that had been planned for months. The union effort was not mentioned alongside the reorganization, according to Polygon.
Activision PR responded to the report by saying that other Activision studios are organized in the same way, meaning Raven is now being aligned with “best practices” across the company. And have QA workers on the whole to say something positive about embedded quality assurance during development. However, the timing of the announcement could be construed as an attempt to water down support for the newly formed union — the CWA issued a statement Tuesday that Raven’s restructuring meetings “were nothing more than a tactic to thwart Raven QA staff, exercising their right to organize,” according to the Washington Post.
The results of the planned NLRB election will determine what happens next with Raven’s QA testers and likely serve as a guide for unionizing at Activision Blizzard, where the employees are located still demanding the removal of Bobby Kotick as CEO, among other labor improvements. It’s currently unclear whether Kotick will remain as CEO after the Microsoft acquisition announced last week is complete, but rumors have it that he will step down.
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