Sega of America accused of union-busting threats after telling whole company it'll 'phase out' temp employees—nearly half the union's membership

Sonic, a blue hedgehog who runs fast, stands determined in front of a crumbled ruin, his brow wrinkled in equal parts concentration and annoyance.
(Image credit: Sonic Team / SEGA)

Back in August of this year, it was announced that Sega of America employees would be forming a union—the Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega (AEGIS-CWA)—alongside the Campaign to Organise Digital Employees (CODE-CWA). 

Then in July, after Sega of America decided not to recognise it, that same union won a election vote 91-26 via the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In short, that means Sega of America has to recognise the union now, or—legally speaking—it could constitute an unfair labour practice

An internal letter sent by the company's leadership said it would respect its commitments to the NLRB (thanks, Gameinformer): "While we believe that a direct relationship promotes a supportive environment, responsiveness, and a shared commitment, we respect our employees’ rights and maintain our legal commitment to the NLRB process."

One might think that Sega of America would play ball after that, but their first negotiations have already prompted a legal charge. Union members have accused the company of threatening its temporary workers, according to a report by Kotaku.

The proposal was delivered November 6 to the bargaining committee, stating the company would be phasing out its temporary employees—"offshored to Japan and Europe" as the report states. Bluntly, that's a terrible deal for the union, considering around 40% of its members (around 80 employees total) would be targeted by such layoffs.

Crucially, rather than negotiate with the union about this proposal Sega of America reportedly proceeded to declare the proposal to its employees directly in a mandatory meeting.

This has the union angry for a few reasons. Firstly, the AEGIS-CWA should—in theory—be recognised by the company according to those NLRB commitments. Secondly, it's the largest multi-discipline video game union in the country, represented by around 200 employees. Thirdly, you're ideally meant to actually negotiate your proposals with a union, rather than announcing them to your employees directly.

The union itself says these are union-busting practices, meant to intimidate its workers. "We’re disappointed that Sega management has not yet ceased their union busting, even after we’ve won our union election back in July," it wrote in a statement on its Twitter page November 16. "We hoped that Sega management would bargain in good faith, but instead they've shown disregard to the status quo and are threatening to outsource the jobs of a majority of the workforce in our QA and Localization departments, which is up to 40% of our unit."

In response, the union has filed an Unfair Labour Practice charge—and made further demands that those temporary workers be made permanent as reparations, as Senior QA Tester Temp—a job title which, in itself, highlights the issue—Elise Willacker wrote in a statement: "We call on the company to make all temporary employees permanent and return to the bargaining table in good faith. There is no other just alternative."

The charge will head to the National Labour Relations board, but it's entirely possible for Sega of America to action those layoffs in the meantime. Which isn't an ideal scenario for anybody involved—but if Sega of America has started as it means to go on, anything can happen.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.