Jan 21, 2022 - Technology

Call of Duty workers say they plan to unionize

A Playstation remote.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Efforts to organize workers in the U.S. video game industry advanced Friday as quality assurance staffers at Call of Duty studio Raven Software say they intend to form a union.

Why it matters: Their group, the Game Workers Alliance, would be the first union at a major American video game maker, one that is set to become part of Microsoft should the tech giant’s planned $69 billion acquisition of Raven parent Activision go through.

  • QA workers at Raven have been on strike since December to protest Activision’s decision to drop a dozen QA contractors.
  • 34 members of the QA staff voted to form GWA in affiliation with the Communication Workers of America.
  • The union won’t be official unless Activision voluntarily recognizes it or the group is certified through an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

The big picture: The multi-billion-dollar global game industry, which employs tens of thousands of workers, is largely non-unionized, with some exceptions mainly in Europe.

  • For years, challenging work conditions, including workplace misconduct, crunched development cycles and limited project-to-project job security have sparked developers' interest in unionizing.
  • Scandals at Activision Blizzard last year led some workers there to begin unionization efforts, a process that is adjacent to the QA-focused GWA effort.
  • In December, North American indie studio Vodeo unionized with support from management.

Details: In a tweeted list of its principles, GWA said it will focus on solidarity, sustainability, equity and diversity.

  • “We strive to foster work environments where Quality Assurance Testers are respected and compensated for our essential role in the development process,“ the group writes.
  • GWA also signaled that it will push for “realistic” development timelines, saying abbreviated ones are unhealthy for workers and hurt game quality.

What they’re saying: “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,” a company spokesperson said.

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