Raven Software QA staff unionize, call on Activision Blizzard for recognition

Update: "We strive to foster work environments where Quality Assurance Testers are respected and compensated for our essential role in the development process."

Game developers within Raven Software's quality assurance teams are forming a union with the aid of media union Communication Workers of America, making themselves known as Game Workers United.

The 34-member group makes up one of the first game development unions in North America, and the effort marks the first instance of worker organization within a major company like Raven parent company Activision Blizzard.

GWU is asking both Raven Software and Activision Blizzard leadership to voluntarily recognize the union and help foster a healthy workplace built around principles of sustainability, transparency, and equity.

"Quality Assurance is currently an undervalued discipline in the games and software industries," the group explained in a Twitter thread. "We strive to foster work environments where Quality Assurance Testers are respected and compensated for our essential role in the development process."

Unionization and wider discussions about worker rights have become an increasingly important conversation in the game industry over the past several years, though the issue isn't without debate among game developers. The recently published 2022 State of the Game Industry report from Game Developer sibling organization GDC showed that 55 percent of surveyed game developers were in favor of industry worker unionization, up from 47 percent in 2019.

According to The Washington Post, recent layoffs at Raven Software, combined with excessive overtime, low pay, and Activision Blizzard's troubling company culture, prompted developers within the QA department to explore unionization.

Should leadership at Raven and Activision Blizzard decline to recognize the union by January 25, The Post reports that those involved in its formation will seek union election via the National Labor Relations Board as a "supermajority" of 78 percent of eligible workers support the union effort.

These moves toward organization also come only days after Microsoft announced plans to acquire Raven parent company Activision Blizzard in a $68.7 billion deal.

Update: An Activision Blizzard spokesperson has provided a statement saying it is "carefully reviewing" the union's voluntary recognition request.

"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," the statement reads. "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."

It's worth comparing Activision Blizzard's statement to how Raven Software workers described the treatment of QA employees at the company when Activision Blizzard first made its plans to lay off workers. 

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