Activision Blizzard has refused to recognize the ongoing attempts by Raven Software QA team to form a union, prompting an election with the National Labor Relations Board.
Following accusations of mistreatment by the company, Raven Sofware announced last week that they would be forming a union dubbed the Game Workers Alliance, with support of the Communications Workers of America. The two had given Activision Blizzard until the 25th to recognize the union.
As of last night though, the deadline has officially lapsed, prompting Raven Sofware to file for a Union Election with the NLRB. If the majority of staff at Raven Software agree to the union, Activision Blizzard will be forced to actually negotiate with the union in good faith, potentially opening the door to better working conditions and pay.
The GWA has since issued a statement, expressing their disappointment that Activision Blizzard would choose to do things the hard way.
“We, the supermajority of workers at Raven QA, are proud to be confidently filing our petition with the NLRB for our union election. We are deeply disappointed that Raven Software and Activision Blizzard refused to uplift workers rights“, they said.
Management’s Response To Unionization
Raven Software studio head Brain Raffel sent out an email in response to the union.
“After carefully reviewing and considering the CWA’s initial request of the company, we worked quickly to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have led to an expedited election process. Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement,” Raffel wrote. “[We] expect that the union will soon be moving forward with the filing of a petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election of eligible Raven employees. If filed, the company will respond formally to that petition promptly”.
“The most important thing to the company is that each eligible employee has the opportunity to have their voice heard and their individual vote counted, and we think all employees at Raven should have a say in this decision.”
Raffel’s response could be seen as an attempt to water down unionization efforts, under the assumption that artists and programmers would not vote for better treatment of their QA team, giving them a vote would make it harder for the QA team to actually have a majority.
Attempts To Weaken The Union
Raven Software also reportedly called relevant staff in for an “Update To QA”, which saw individual QA staff promoted to full-time employees and moved to other departments.
The Washington Post asked former NLRB chairman Wilma Liebman, who said that these were attempts to dilute the union by spreading them around the company.
“The union would have a decent case to make that by doing this on the heels of a request for recognition and on the heels of all this union organizing activity, that this was somehow unlawful, intended to kill the union strength,” Liebman says. “I would say that having seen these kinds of things many times, that there’s possibly more afoot here than meets the eye.”
This sentiment is echoed by Polygon reporter Nicole Carpenter, who explained the process of getting a union recognized.
“To be approved, unions have to prove a “community of interest,” i.e., a group of workers with shared categorization, for lack of a better word. Sectioned off as wholly QA made Raven’s unit clear. This may complicate that. Have asked Activision for clarification.
The CWA also called out the decision as an attempt to weaken unionization efforts: