QA workers at Blizzard Albany, a studio under Activision Blizzard formerly known as Vicarious Visions, have successfully voted to form a union – despite major obstacles standing in the way. The count was tallied at 14 ‘yes’ votes and no opposition, with one vote disqualified and three more challenged by management at Activision Blizzard, for being late.
Notably, management was against the union vote, and petitioned the US National Labor Relations Board to reconsider allowing it to go ahead. The company’s stance was that a union vote should not take place only amongst QA workers, but should be held amongst employees of the entire studio.
‘No [NLRB] decision addresses the appropriate scope of a bargaining unit in a video game studio,’ Activision Blizzard reportedly said in a filed statement.
This argument was ultimately shot down, as the NLRB ruled that QA work was appropriately different enough to the work of other developers that workers should be considered their own entity, with their own rights and determinations.
‘It took an unbelievable amount of work and perseverance to move this fight forward,’ Blizzard Albany associate test analyst Amanda Deep said of the fight, per GamesIndustry.biz.
‘With this victory, we’re advocating for ourselves and each other because we care deeply about our work and the games we make. Organising has empowered all of us to fight hard for the dignity and respect every worker deserves on the job… We can only hope that our win will continue to grow the labor movement at other video game studios across the country.’
Game Workers Alliance Albany is now one of only two major video game unions under Activision Blizzard – the other comprising the QA workers of Raven Software.
In the coming weeks, GWA Albany will begin negotiating a contract with Activision Blizzard management, and come to terms on a fair agreement for everyone – one that protects the rights of workers, and the stability of their jobs.
The action is now protected by US labour laws.
‘Albany Blizzard workers never wavered in the face of adversity,’ Communications Workers of America secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens said, per Polygon. ‘Instead, they remained resilient and steadfast, which is a testament to the organising they’ve done to ensure quality assurance workers are treated with fairness and respect for the work that they do.’
In a statement to GamesIndustry.biz, an Activision Blizzard representative confirmed the company was considering all its options, with a focus on ‘what is best for all employees and to provide the best games for our millions of players.’ It remains steadfast in its belief that the union vote should have included all workers at Blizzard Albany, and has claimed its protests are ‘about fundamental fairness and rights for every member of the team.’
We’ll likely hear more about progress on contract negotiation as GWA Albany works with management to arrange fair stipulations for the future.