Blizzard QA testers win right to vote for unionisation

Testers at the former Vicarious Visions will now initiate a vote on whether to unionise.
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Quality assurance testers at Blizzard Albany, the studio formerly known as Vicarious Visions, have officially won the right to vote on unionisation following a lengthy process, and negotiation with the US National Labor Relations Board. Months after the intention to unionise was first lodged, 21 QA workers will now get the chance to better protect their careers and rights in the workplace.

Parent company Activision Blizzard reportedly attempted to bust the union effort early on, claiming that QA workers were not a standalone entity, and that a union vote needed to take place amongst all 88 developers at Blizzard Albany.

This isn’t the first time Activision Blizzard has attempted union-busting, with the company having hired a union-busting firm in early 2022 that labelled unionisers as ‘lazy’, ‘footloose’, and ‘malingerers’.

Read: Law firm hired by Activision Blizzard says unions recruit ‘lazy malingerers’

Despite the company’s best efforts, the union vote will go ahead, with the National Labor Relations Board ruling there could be no opposition to the 21 QA testers voting to form a union. While this doesn’t guarantee success, it does clear an important hurdle for the impacted workers.

The ruling from the NLRB makes clear that testers are in a separate working group from developers, and therefore are determined by different rights and regulations. Given this, they should be allowed to vote to form a union under their own steam.

‘Comparing the developers’ community of interest to that of the testers I find that the distinct interests of the testers outweigh the similarities that exist with the developers,’ the union report claimed, per Kotaku. ‘As noted, the testers participate in the same game development process that includes significant contact and functional integration.’

‘However, testers are separately organised in their own department and their supervisory hierarchy is entirely separate from the Diablo franchise. Testers also have a specific set of skills and duties different from the developers. Finally, testers are paid significantly less than developers …  For these reasons I find any shared interests between the testers and developers do not outweigh the separate interests that make the petitioned-for unit an appropriate unit.’

The vote will go ahead on 27 October, with votes set to be counted on 18 November. Shortly afterwards the results, and the potential formation of a new union within Activision Blizzard, will be announced.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.