Oct 13, 2022 - Technology

Nintendo settles labor dispute with game tester over unions

Photo of Nintendo's logo on a big red wall with people walking in front of it

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Nintendo game tester Mackenzie Clifton will receive $26,000 in back pay and damages as part of a settlement with the game maker, according to a filing with the National Labor Relations Board.

Why it matters: The settlement closes the first of two labor complaints brought against Nintendo and a contracting firm this year over alleged violations of workers' rights to organize.

Details: The settlement, signed by Clifton and lawyers from Nintendo of America and contracting firm Aston Carter, calls for $25,000 in pay and interest and $1,000 in damages.

  • Nintendo and Aston Carter will be required to post a notice about workers' federally protected rights at the entrance to its Product Testing Department for 60 days. It will also email it to all members of that team.
  • The notice states, in part, that workers have the right to "form, join or assist a union."

Catch up quick: Clifton filed their complaint to the NLRB in April and went public with their account in an interview with Axios last month.

  • A veteran game tester who'd earned praise from colleagues for their work on Super Smash Bros., Clifton said they were reprimanded by an Aston Carter manager after asking Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser about unionization during a company meeting.
  • Nintendo later said Clifton was fired for revealing confidential information, but Clifton showed Axios that the tweet cited for their firing didn't name the new game they were working on, just that a glitch made the unidentified game temporarily appear red.
  • Clifton had requested that a letter of apology signed by Bowser be included in the settlement, but was told by the NLRB that it wasn't required. Any such letter is not mentioned in the terms of the settlement.

What they're saying: "Nintendo is thankful that a resolution was reached," the company noted in a statement shared with Axios, saying it was focused on ""ensuring that our working environment remains welcoming and supportive for all our employees and associates."

  • The back half of Nintendo's statement stressed the obligation of Nintendo workers "not to disclose Nintendo’s confidential business information and trade secrets." It did not address why Clifton's tweet was deemed a fireable offense.

Clifton tells Axios the settlement with Nintendo of America was a success: "My original goal behind filing the charge was to show my coworkers at NOA what their rights are and what happens when they choose to exercise them.

  • "In that sense, the terms of this settlement are exactly what I hoped to see."

The big picture: Workers at game companies have been speaking up more in recent years about about tenuous contracts, low pay, long hours and workplace misconduct and have increasingly cited potential unionization as an issue.

  • Last year, testers at scandal-ridden Activision Blizzard announced plans to form a union.
  • It was a question about those efforts that Clifton believes led to their firing.

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Editor's note: This story was updated with a statement from Nintendo and Clifton.

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