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Raven Software employees voted on forming the first major gaming union. The studio’s 22 QA employees sent in ballots to the National Labor Relations Board in April. The NLRB tallied up the votes today, with a final count of 19 in favor and 3 against. The 22 workers now comprise a union under the Game Workers Alliance label, which is recognized by the NLRB. They can now begin negotiations with parent company Activision Blizzard.
The QA team’s move came after a long struggle with the rest of Raven Software and Activision. Late last year, Raven laid off several contract workers on the team rather than convert them to full-time, despite alleged assurances and some of the relocating for the positions. The team was, at the time, working on Call of Duty: Warzone, one of Activision’s most lucrative titles. In protest, over 60 Raven employees went on strike, and the workers formed the union in January.
Various reports have surfaced alleging that the leadership of Raven and Activision have attempted to dissuade workers from unionizing. Shortly after the aforementioned strike, the latter reorganized the department. In February, Activision argued to the NLRB that the embedded nature of the department meant that the whole studio should vote, but the NLRB later rejected its argument. It also converted its QA staff to full-time with benefits, and, according to a Bloomberg report, the unionizing workers were not given a pay bump alongside their colleagues. According to a Washington Post report, Raven also sent its staff an email about the vote with an attachment saying “Please vote no.”
The Game Workers Alliance is the first major recognized union in the games industry. Reggie Fils-Aimé today said in an interview with the Washington Post that the industry leaders should embrace unions if that’s what their workers want, and “move on.”