Raven Software QA testers become first union at a major US developer

Activision Blizzard's Santa Monica studio
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

The quality assurance testers of Raven Software, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, have officially voted to unionize. The ballots were mailed in this month and counted today at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin office of the National Labor Relations Board, with a final tally of 19-3 in favor of forming a union.

Although the QA testers only number about 30 of Raven's over 200 employees, this is still a pretty darn big deal. It's the first union to form at a major North American game developer in an industry where stories of crunch, harassment, discrimination, and other examples of employee abuse have led to multiple landmark lawsuits and calls for more worker protections. Raven Software was founded in 1990.

Today's vote was the result of a series of events that kicked off in December of 2021, when a dozen QA workers learned their contracts weren't being renewed despite Call of Duty: Warzone becoming a massive hit that attracted over 100 million players. The QA team held a walkout to protest the layoffs, which was followed by a nearly two-month-long strike and the formation of the Game Worker's Alliance in January of this year.

Activision Blizzard naturally fought the efforts of the QA Team to unionize, first failing to voluntarily recognize the union and then contesting the union filing. But the NLRB ruled last month that Raven's QA team, made up of both full-time and part-time workers, could move forward with a vote to unionize even though they didn't represent a majority of Raven Software workers.

Winning the union election isn't the end of the story—in a way, it's just the beginning. There is still the typically long and protracted process of negotiating a contract. "Now that the fight for recognition is through, we can focus our efforts on negotiations," Raven Software QA tester Becka Aigner said (per The Washington Post). "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.” 

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.