Call of Duty QA workers form landmark game industry union

Game Workers Alliance logo
(Image credit: Game Workers Alliance)

Raven Software QA workers, who have been on strike (opens in new tab) since early December, are unionizing. Supported by the Communications Workers of America and the ABK Workers Alliance, the employees have announced plans to launch the Game Workers Alliance (opens in new tab), "a movement formed and maintained by game industry employees across multiple disciplines, primarily stemming from the labor rights strike by Raven Software QA employees."

"We, of Raven Quality Assurance, are reaching out today to announce the formation of our Union, the Game Workers Alliance, and request official voluntary recognition to join CODE-CWA/Communications Workers of America," the union said in a message to Activision Blizzard management, posted at (opens in new tab). "With leadership's constant reiteration of investment in the best interests of the employee-base, we offer the opportunity to demonstrate this now by willingly acknowledging the Union composed of those same workers.

"With a Super-Majority of Raven Quality Assurance invested in our organizing efforts, we have found it to be in our own best interests to push forward with unionization. It has become evident that equity will never be achieved without collective bargaining power. The company chose to release twelve integral employees while pointedly discarding critical advisement from Raven's departmental leadership."

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The CWA issued a similar call for management recognition of the union.

"We ask that Activision Blizzard management respect Raven QA workers by voluntarily recognizing CWA's representation without hesitation," Communications Workers of America secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens said in a statement sent to Polygon (opens in new tab). "A collective bargaining agreement will give Raven QA employees a voice at work, improving the games they produce and making the company stronger. Voluntary recognition is the rational way forward."

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The Game Workers Alliance won't be the first videogame union in North America: That distinction belongs to workers at indie studio Vodeo, who unionized in December 2021. But it will be the first at a company the size of Activision Blizzard.

As the Washington Post (opens in new tab) reports, it's not necessary for Activision Blizzard to recognize the union on its own: A supermajority of employees voted in favor of forming the union, which means it can be formalized through the US National Labor Relations Board even without management recognition. Activision Blizzard leadership has previously discouraged unionization (opens in new tab), but also said that it supports employees' right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act (which, well, it has to). The company's looming acquisition by Microsoft may open the door to a conciliatory approach, although an Activision Blizzard statement sent to PC Gamer in today downplayed the significance of the union and reiterated the company's preference.

"Activision Blizzard is carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition from the CWA, which seeks to organize around three dozen of the company's nearly 10,000 employees," a company representative said. "While we believe that a direct relationship between the company and its team members delivers the strongest workforce opportunities, we deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union.

"Across Activision Blizzard, we remain focused on listening closely to our employees and providing the improved pay, benefits and professional opportunities needed to attract and retain the world’s best talent. Over the past couple of years, this has included raising minimum compensation for Raven QA employees by 41%, extending paid time off, expanding access to medical benefits for employees and significant others, and transitioning more than 60% of temporary Raven QA staff into full-time employees."

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The Raven strike began on December 6, when members of the studio's quality assurance team walked off the job to protest Actvision Blizzard's decision not to renew the contracts of 12 QA workers. A few days later, the employees announced formal strike action, and have been off the job since, but Activision Blizzard has thus far shown no sign of budging (opens in new tab) on the employees' demands. The ABK Workers Alliance said earlier this month that the striking workers hadn't received any sort of formal acknowledgement from upper management.

The Game Workers Alliance gave Activision Blizzard until January 25 to respond to its request for recognition, and said that it will file for election with the NLRB if it fails to do so.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.