Aug 10, 2022 - Technology

Second labor complaint filed against Nintendo

Photo showing people in a darkened conference hall in front of a large red wall bearing a white Nintendo logo

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The National Labor Relations Board has received a new workplace complaint against gaming giant Nintendo and a firm it uses for contractors in its main U.S. office.

Why it matters: This is the second time this year that a worker has filed such a complaint against the maker of Mario and Zelda, as labor activism in the gaming industry intensifies.

Details: The complaint filed on Monday was against Nintendo and contracting firm Aston Carter, which recruits customer service and administrative workers for the game company.

  • It alleges that the companies established “coercive rules” and in some way retaliated, discharged or disciplined a worker for engaging in protected activity with others.
  • While the publicly available details are vague, such allegations generally involve workers saying their employer has interfered with their ability to discuss working conditions or form a union.
  • Representatives from Nintendo and Aston Carter did not reply to requests for comment.

Flashback: In April, a gaming contractor filed an NLRB complaint against Nintendo and Aston Carter over their termination.

  • A Kotaku report, citing four sources, said the worker had been terminated after asking about unionization in a company meeting.
  • Nintendo denied this, saying the contractor was fired for divulging confidential information and said it was unaware of any unionization efforts.

Between the lines: In the wake of the April NLRB complaint against Nintendo, dozens of current and former contractors at Nintendo began speaking out to Axios and other outlets about doing work they loved in a set-up that infuriated them.

  • The contractors, who are involved in everything from testing the games to helping write them, spoke of frustrations over pay, forced annual breaks, difficulties of converting to full-time work and a general feeling of being treated as second class even when doing work equal to those on staff.
  • Two Nintendo contractors also told Axios about a 2014 incident when workers met off-site to discuss unionization only to be reprimanded by their Nintendo-affiliated contracting firm for doing so.

The big picture: Workers across the games industry have been speaking out for years about excessive hours, low pay and other negative working conditions. More recently, they've begun forming unions as a way to improve their situation.

What’s next: Both NLRB complaints against Nintendo and Aston Carter are under investigation by the board’s regional office in Washington State.

  • It will be weeks, or months, before the board determines whether they have sufficient evidence to support either charge, which could lead to a hearing or settlement.

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