Activision Blizzard employees form first major NA games union, hope to inspire “growing movement of workers”

Activision Blizzard subsidiary and Call of Duty Warzone developer Raven Software has officially formed the first union among North America’s major video game studios.

The Game Workers Alliance, backed by Communication Workers of America, announced the results of the studio’s union vote during a Twitter stream earlier today. Jessica Gonzalez, a campaign organizer for GWA, shared a live update of the results, which immediately looked in favor of unionization and reached a near-unanimous 19 – 2 during the stream. 

A total of 28 Raven workers were eligible to vote today, but due to absences and two invalidated votes, the final count was 19 – 3. This gave the movement 86% of the tallied votes, which is more than enough for it to move forward. 

After the final count and review, the National Labor Relations Board recognized the Game Workers Alliance as “a legitimate union,” Gonzalez confirmed. 

“It’s a beautiful day to unionize,” she said, adding that the GWA and CWA teams will take a moment to celebrate before moving to “get ready to make a contract.” 

In the run-up to today’s vote, Raven employees accused Activision of trying “to stop our union every step of the way” after months of organizing, which included prolonged protests sparked by the abrupt dismissal of studio contractors. The GWA echoed these sentiments in a statement released today.

“Activision Blizzard worked tirelessly to undermine our efforts to establish our union, but we persevered,” the GWA said in a joint statement. “Now that we’ve won our election, it is our duty to protect these foundational values on which our union stands. Our biggest hope is that our union serves as inspiration for the growing movement of workers organizing at video game studios to create better games and build workplaces that reflect our values and empower all of us.” 

“Activision did everything it could, including breaking the law, to try to prevent the Raven QA workers from forming their union,” added CWA secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens. “It didn’t work, and we are thrilled to welcome them as CWA members.” 

The GWA follows the union established at Vodeo Games last year, which made history for game studios in North America. The GWA has the distinction of being the first NA union at a studio of Activision’s scale, although major studios in other countries, such as Sweden-based publisher Paradox Interactive, have recognized comparable unions for several years. 

Congratulations to the workers at @RavenSoftware on their vote to form the @WeAreGWA union! #UnionYES #WeAreGWA #1u https://t.co/av35wz1sSuMay 23, 2022

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The union’s journey was also inextricably shaped by the ongoing and mounting Activision Blizzard lawsuits and investigations, with a recent New York City suit implying company CEO Bobby Kotick used the still-pending $68 billion Microsoft deal to “escape accountability.” 

Microsoft’s purchase of Activision is still subject to approval but is said to be “moving fast,” according to Microsoft president Brad Smith. The would-be owner previously claimed that it “will not stand in the way” of Activision Blizzard unions, per corporate vice president and general counsel Lisa Tanzi.  

Update: Activision Blizzard has released a statement which reads: “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 Raven employees.”

The contract terms the GWA union is in the process of drawing up would presumably focus on union members, so it’s unclear how “the entire Raven Software studio” will be affected by the news. 

Today’s union vote results were announced on the heels of new accusations from the NLRB against Activision alleging illegal threatening of staff

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