A group of workers at Raven Software, the division of Activision responsible for QA on Call of Duty: Warzone, has officially announced it's unioninzing with the Communication Workers of America. The Game Workers Alliance has officially asked Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognize the union at the Madison, Wisconsin-based development studio.
While not the first union in the games industry, it is the first one at a major publisher in North America, according to Bloomberg's Jason Schreier. The union is being formed by 34 Raven Software workers following weeks of striking in response to Activision Blizzard letting go 12 QA workers at the developer in December. According to the Washington Post, the department within Raven Software has the supermajority of union card signatories needed to form the union, which is now asking that Activision Blizzard formally recognize the Game Workers Alliance.
In a press release, the CWA's secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens states that a "collective bargaining agreement will give Raven QA employees a voice at work, improving the games they produce and making the company stronger. Voluntary recognition is the rational way forward."
In the same press release, Erin Hall, a QA tester at Raven Software states that the union's goal is to represent what the employees "as workers in the industry want as well as set a new standard for workers across the industry moving forward."
"Our union will help inform what is best for Activision Blizzard as a company, as a platform for gamers and a workplace where all workers can thrive. The goal of the Game Workers Alliance (CWA) is to represent what we as workers in the industry want as well as set a new standard for workers across the industry moving forward”
For their part, Activision Blizzard has released a statement (via Polygon) regarding the unionization announcement, stating the company is "carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition."
"Activision Blizzard is carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition from the CWA, which seeks to organize around three dozen of the company’s nearly 10,000 employees. While we believe that a direct relationship between the company and its team members delivers the strongest workforce opportunities, we deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union.
Across Activision Blizzard, we remain focused on listening closely to our employees and providing the improved pay, benefits and professional opportunities needed to attract and retain the world’s best talent. Over the past couple of years, this has included raising minimum compensation for Raven QA employees by 41%, extending paid time off, expanding access to medical benefits for employees and significant others, and transitioning more than 60% of temporary Raven QA staff into full-time employees."
It's been a whirlwind of activity this week for Activision Blizzard, as the publisher is set to be acquired by Microsoft for the whopping sum of $68.7 billion should the deal make it through regulators. Since July of 2021 the studio has been facing backlash as the news of a lawsuit filed by a California agency alleging sexual harassment and discrimination at the publisher. The backlash to the lawsuit as well as a bombshell report in November by the Wall Street Journal have increased calls for Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to resign, though reports state that he will remain at the company in his role as the acquisition moves forward, while other reports have stated he will step down following the closure of the deal.
Back in December, Activision Blizzard executive Brian Bulatao sent a letter to the company's employees in response to unionization efforts being initiated. The letter cautioned employees to "consider the consequences" of their signature on the union cards with the Communications Workers of America. Bulatao stated in the email that he believed the company's workplace culture could be fixed without the need for employees to unionize.
Raven Software has been at the center of the collective action ever since Activision Blizzard laid off 12 QA employees in December, many of whom had recently reportedly relocated to Wisconsin at their own expense. Since the contracts were not renewed, many QA workers at the company have gone on strike, which has now been going on for over a month. A GoFundMe page has been set up in the weeks since the strike was first initiated, raising money to cover the bills of those employees who are striking or were laid off.
According to a letter set to Activision Blizzard management (via the Washington Post), the publisher has five days to respond, which includes the weekend coming up. If the company does not officially recognize the union within that time, the Game Worker's Alliance will be filing for union election with the National Labor Relations Board.