Raven Software employees have made history as a landslide vote on unionization could lead to the formulation of the first major union in the United States’ video games industry.
On the day that Activision Blizzard was accused by the US Labor Board of “illegally” confronting staff regarding the possibility of unionization, those working for Raven – a studio under the Activision umbrella – made their feelings known.
Back in July 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing officially filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard. Since then, Activision has been accused of allowing sexual harassment to take place in the workplace, which led to a staff walkout, and also it was alleged that they were “shredding documents” related to the case.
Such allegations led to rumors about possible unionization. On April 25, Raven Software QA workers announced that a landmark vote would take place, following a ruling from The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – and now, the results are in.
First major US video games union created
The vote was put to around 30 game testers at Raven Software, of which only three decided to turn down the proposal for a union.
On May 23, Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier confirmed the count – with an overwhelming majority of people being supportive of the proposals.
He tweeted: “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.”
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
The game testers, named the Games Workers Alliance, spoke to the Washington Post following the conclusion of the vote.
Becka Aigner, a Raven Software quality assurance tester, told the newspaper: “The outcome of this election, the voice of the people coming together to vote yes for this union, is further validation that even a small group of folks in Madison Wisconsin standing together in solidarity can face up against a AAA studio giant like Activision, and come out the other side victorious.
“Now that the fight for recognition is through, we can focus our efforts on negotiations. We’ll fight for respect, fight for better wages, better benefits, better work-life balance, fight for sustainability and job security, and continue to fight for our fellow workers in solidarity.”
Activision responds to historic Raven Software vote
Back in July 2021, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick admitted that the company’s initial response to the California lawsuit was “tone deaf”.
This time, a spokesperson said of the news: “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 people should not be made by 19 of Raven employees. We’re committed to doing what’s best for the studio and our employees.”
Whether or not other developing studios under the Activision umbrella will follow suit remains to be seen, but many believe this could spark a domino effect right across the industry.