Video Gaming Got Its First Major Union. Now What?

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The story is about will take place in Madison, Wisconsin. A group of game developers has personally met to await the results of the National Labor Relations Board elections that will determine whether workers’ quality assurance Call of Duty developer Raven Software has the majority vote needed to unionize about two dozen employees under the giant known as Activision Blizzard.

“It’s a beautiful day to join a union,” said Jessica Gonzalez, a former Activision Blizzard employee who now works as a campaign organizer at CODE-CWA. Twitter spaces stream on May 23rd. “It took me months to get here,” Gonzalez said. Now it’s a few minutes before they know if the employees ’efforts have been successful. “BOOM!” someone calls in the background, while Gonzalez announces the official verdict: 19 in favor and 3 against. “We did it! We won our union.”

The window for Activision Blizzard to challenge those votes closed on May 31st. Raven Software’s election results are now official, consolidating a historic victory for the video game industry unions. Game Workers Alliance, made up of Wisconsin-based studio quality assurance workers in collaboration with the nation’s largest communications and media union, Communications Workers of America, is the first to exist in an AAA developer. Raven’s success is a major change, according to CODE-CWA senior campaign manager Emma Kinema, which means the industry is doing more than just recognizing its worst habits.

“We’re entering a new phase in the organization,” Kinema says. “We’re actually making the change and we’re doing it at the heart of corporate development.”

Despite decades of poor working conditions, such as overtime penalties, inappropriate pay and sexual harassment, the video game industry has moved toward unionization at an icy pace. Discussions about unions and better working conditions were at the forefront of events such as the 2018 Game Developers Conference; However, it was not until last year that the first union of North America with the independent studio Vodeo Games was formed. Video game workers are in a unique position to fall into both the technology and media industries, says Kinema, pointing to a long cycle of exhaustion and loss of talent. “It has the worst characteristics of these two industries.”

The Activision Blizzard harassment scandal prompted workers to join the union. A group of employees formed A Better ABK, which has successfully run outings, organized strike funds and more to support better working conditions. This was an example for Raven employees, who went on strike for almost seven weeks after a dozen quality assurance workers were told their contracts would not be renewed.

Quality Assurance Checker Becca Aigner said during a recent Washington Post flow that GWA was able to follow the examples set by A Better ABK. The group was established under the name Game Workers Alliance in the hope that others in the games would come together behind the biggest cause to improve workplace conditions. “What Raven was experiencing is not exclusive to the industry,” Aigner said. “This is an industry-wide problem.”

“We need a seat at the table, and negotiations are that. We need to have a role and a representative [advocating for] best interests for what QA needs. ”Employees want job security, he continued, and the recognition that quality control is not a revolving door entry position.

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