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Tender Claws forms new collective agreement with worker-led union

The Tender Claws Human Union's new contract with its company has secured pay and job structure transparency, along with greater benefits for LGBTQIA+ staff.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

December 11, 2023

2 Min Read
Gameplay from Virtual Virtual Reality 2 by developer Tender Claws.
Image via Tender Claws.

Over the weekend, VR developer Tender Claws and the Communication Workers of America (CWA) reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement for the Tender Claws Human Union (TCHU). In its press release, the CWA is notably proud of this accomplishment, calling it "one of the first union contracts for [US] video game developers."

Tender Claws management gave the TCHU voluntary recognition back in mid-2022, and the two parties have been bargaining since this past February. The agreement saw Tender Claws go with an "open bargaining model," described as the workers' bargaining unit being allowed to attend meetings and draft contract language. 

As explained by the CWA, the contract provides clearly defined pay scales based on seniority and job title (complete with a formal progression structure) and new health care benefits. It also includes benefits described as "LGBTQIA+ inclusive," like lived name and pronoun policy, family leave that now legally recognizes chosen family.

"Tender Claws workers have always taken care of each other," wrote designer Robin LoBuglio. "I am deeply grateful for my many amazing colleagues who worked hard to make this historic contract happen."

Co-founders Danny Cannizzaro and Samantha Gorman noted the studio has "always been committed to creating an inclusive and supportive workplace. We see this agreement as another step in fostering a positive work environment."

New unions, new tricks

The press release notes that Tender Claws' open agreement is the first of its kind for the CWA's local 9003 branch. While there've been more unions formed in the past year than one could count, most of them have followed a fairly straightforward path of "announce union, hold vote, call for recognition by parent company."

With Tender Claws, the end result of this new model led to a "highly engaged bargaining process" where all workers were said to have had their needs and concerns addressed. 

Last week, the CWA also broke new ground in its handling of Microsoft and the ZeniMax Workers Union. The ZWU formed earlier this year, and now nearly 80 contract workers (from Microsoft specifically) were incorporated into it. What's more, 23 of that 77-person team were brought on as full-time workers, complete with pay increases.

Members of the ZWU described this as a "historic development," which goes to show there's more than one way to handle a union.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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