A new group of workers at video game behemoth Activision Blizzard is launching an attempt at unionization with the Communications Workers of America.
Quality assurance (QA) testers at Blizzard Albany in New York have organized and are asking for voluntary recognition of their group from management, the workers tweeted on Tuesday. On Tuesday they additionally filed a petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board. Twenty associate test analysts are involved in the effort, and according to the CWA, 19 out of 20 have signed union authorization cards.
“There are issues in the video game industry that often go unaddressed because our work is considered a passion instead of a job,” Blizzard Albany associate test analyst Amanda Laven said in a statement. “Quality assurance workers deserve fair treatment and proper compensation for the work we do which is why we chose to form a union.”
The group, which is dubbed the Albany Game Workers Alliance/CWA, says workers asked management for voluntary recognition last week and received acknowledgment that their communication was received, but not yet an answer. In a statement, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said, “Our top priority remains our employees. We deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union. We believe that a direct relationship between the company and its employees is the most productive relationship. The company will be publicly and formally providing a response to the petition to the NLRB.”
The group is seeking to improve benefits, wages and health care coverage, as well as gain more pay transparency and implement new procedures for addressing workplace issues. Albany Game Workers Alliance would also like to “address disparities in titles and compensation to accurately recognize our contributions & responsibilities” and “improve the work-life balance of our workers, including establishing reasonable protocols to address demands of ‘crunch’ time,” the group tweeted.
In late May, a separate group of QA workers at a Wisconsin Activision Blizzard subsidiary voted in an NLRB election to unionize with the CWA, forming the first certified union at the Call of Duty maker. The QA testers at Blizzard Albany are the second group within the company to go public about their efforts with CWA, whose CODE initiative seeks to organize workers in technology and video games.
Microsoft revealed a $68.7 billion deal to purchase Activision Blizzard earlier this year. While CWA initially opposed the mega-merger, it reversed course after reaching a labor neutrality agreement with Microsoft in June. Pending regulatory approval, the deal is currently set to close in 2023.
CWA Local 1118 president John Van Denburgh referenced that neutrality agreement in a statement about the Albany QA workers’ organizing efforts. “A collective bargaining agreement will not only give Albany QA workers a voice on the job, but also improve the games they produce and the company’s day to day,” he said. “Activision-Blizzard should follow Microsoft’s commitment to a Labor Neutrality Agreement. Respecting the supermajority of Blizzard Albany QA workers’ decision to form a union without hesitation is the only answer.”