Apr 19, 2022 - Technology

Nintendo hit with labor complaint

Photo of a phone with a Nintendo logo on it, held in front of an American flag

Photo Illustration: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An unnamed worker is alleging that Nintendo, and a firm it uses for hiring contractors, violated their legally protected right to unionize, according to a new filing with the National Labor Relations Board.

Why it matters: The NLRB complaint, filed on Friday, brings one of gaming’s most successful companies into the increasingly active conversation about workers’ rights in the sector.

The details: The allegations state that Nintendo of America and global hiring firm Aston Carter engaged in “concerted activities” and made “coercive actions” against a worker, interfering with their legally protected right to organize.

  • The exact claims of what happened are unclear, because the publicly posted docket for the complaint lists broad charges but doesn’t describe what is said to have occurred.
  • But it does indicate the allegations were likely to include claims of surveillance, threats, retaliation and either a layoff or refusal to hire.
  • Nintendo of America, which is based in Redmond, Washington, is a division of the Kyoto-based gaming giant. The NLRB complaint was filed in Washington state.

While Nintendo is well-known, Aston Carter is a less visible player in the gaming industry.

  • Online job listings show it has recruited customer service and administrative contractors for Nintendo.
  • Neither company responded to a request for comment by press time.

Between the lines: Unionization efforts in gaming have increased over the last year, due to both simmering worker discontent in an intense field and in reaction to high-profile scandals at big game companies.

  • Some workers at Call of Duty and World of Warcraft giant Activision Blizzard announced the beginning of a union drive in January, and employees of subsidiary Raven Software are currently in a labor dispute with Activision management that is being overseen by the NLRB.

The bottom line: Nintendo has, at least publicly, largely avoided any of the scandals rocking the industry. The NLRB complaint could change that.

  • While an investigation will still follow and the companies could be cleared, University of California, Berkely professor and labor expert Harley Shaiken tells Axios the situation shouldn't be ignored.
  • “If the NLRB is listing these allegations, it’s pretty serious, and their ability to act on it is very real.”

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