UPDATE: Raven Software has voted to unionize, by a vote of 19-3.
It's now official: testers at Activision-owned Raven Software have voted to form the U.S. video game industry's first major union. There were 19 votes for and 3 votes against— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) May 23, 2022
With a key unionization vote count for its Raven Software division happening today, a new report indicates that Activision Blizzard “illegally threatened staff and enforced a social media policy that conflicts with workers’ rights”.
The report, published by Bloomberg, notes that a government spokesperson from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that there were illegal practices committed in the company’s efforts to thwart potential unionization efforts. Detailed violations were not provided. Unless the company agrees to settle, the NLRB will issue a legal complaint with the allegations.
The report comes on an important day for those unionization efforts. After determining that Raven Software QA employees had the right to take a unionization vote separately (the company had tried to make the vote happen among the entire Raven workforce), those votes will be counted on camera by the NLRB in Wisconsin. The vote is expected to pass, and should that happen, it would mean the official formation of the first major video game labor union in the US.
The NLRB violations are taken as part of the company’s anti-union campaigning against the efforts by Game Workers Alliance, formed after the company suddenly fired 12 Raven QA workers (and also made some jobs permanent). This led to a walkout and strike action being taken.
Both parties took their sides to court, both in an effort to shape the scope of the official union election, after Activision Blizzard refused to voluntarily recognize the initial unionization announcement. The company had made some changes to Raven, which the QA workers believed were attempts at diluting their organizing power by sending them to all different departments, a position echoed by an official statement given to the Washington Post today by spokesperson Jessica Taylor:
“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 employees should not be made by fewer than 10% of Raven employees.”
Activision Blizzard announced changes last month that would affect over 1,000 employees, converting all remaining US-based temporary and contract QA workers to full-time employees, with a minimum hourly pay increase to $20 per hour as a base starting July 1st. However, these changes, including the raises, would not apply to Raven QA testers "due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act”.