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Raven Software QA Group Votes To Unionize, Becomes First Major US Games Union

Joseph Bradford Posted:
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Staffers at Activision Blizzard studio Raven Software voted today to be recognized as a union, with the vote successfully carrying the day. As such, this marks the first major US games union to be formed at a major studio.

The vote held today ensures that the employees at Raven Software have successfully unionized, forming the Game Workers Alliance. The union vote passed with 19 yeas and 3 nay votes, according to Bloomberg's Jason Schreier on Twitter. Ahead of today's vote, company spokesperson Jessica Taylor, in a statement to the Washington Post, stated that AB believes that a "decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 employees should not be made by few than 10% of Raven employees."

In a statement to MMORPG.com, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson reiterated this point, stating:

"We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether or not to support or vote for a union. We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees.”

Activision Blizzard last month announced that the company would be converting over 1000 employees - effectively all remaining US-based temp and contract QA workers - to full time status, giving them a pay bump as well. However, that would not apply to Raven Software's testers, as Activision Blizzard stated this was "due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act" citing a law that prefers employers from extending new benefits to employees who are going to be voting.

Now, as a result of the union vote, the next step for the GWA will be to secure its first contract with Activision Blizzard and Raven Software. It won't be an easy process, but it's one Raven staffers have said (according to the Washington Post) that will encourage other studios and game developers to follow suit.

This marks another milestone in recent Activision Blizzard history that has seen employees walk out in previous months due to the recent upheaval caused by the recent lawsuit aimed at AB by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing last summer. Additionally, Raven Software employees staged a walkout late last year in response to the company laying off 12 of their colleagues, and eventually a strike action.

Today's vote also accompanied allegations by the NLRB that Activision Blizzard was illegally trying to thwart potential unionization efforts, allegations that Activision Blizzard stated were "false." Via a statement to the Washington Post

"These allegations are false. Employees may and do talk freely about these workplace issues without retaliation, and our social media policy expressly incorporates employees’ NLRA rights."

As far as how this vote affects the greater landscape of the games industry will remain to be seen, but the coming months should prove interesting, especially as Activision Blizzard is currently in the process of being acquired by Microsoft to the tune of almost $69 billion. 


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore