A group of Raven Software QA workers are pushing ahead with their attempts to unionize under the Game Workers Alliance (GWA) banner, but some union reps believe parent company Activision Blizzard is employing union-busting tactics to frustrate those seeking to organize.
As reported by Polygon, Activision Blizzard and Raven QA staff have been participating in a National Labor Review Board (NLRB) hearing that aims to define which employees can be included in the QA unit, while also determining who can vote for or against the union. The NLRB hearing will also set a date for the unionization vote.
The GWA union, formed with the help of the Communication Workers of America (CWA), is arguing that only QA testers and leads at Raven Software should be eligible for unionization. Activision Blizzard, however, claims that "all employees at Raven should have a say in this decision" and must therefore be able to vote.
The issue with those conflicting stances is rooted in Activision Blizzard's recent reorganization efforts, which resulted in some Raven QA staff being embedded into different teams across the company, including art, design, engineering, and audio. The timing of that reshuffle raised eyebrows internally, and the CWA suggested the move was designed to divide the union, dilute the vote, and "thwart Raven QA workers who are exercising their right to organize."
The NLRB hearing will ultimately determine whether that internal reshuffle reclassifies QA workers, redefining who's eligible for union membership. At this stage, it's worth remembering that a majority vote must be obtained for Game Workers Unite to be officially recognized, so any eligibility changes could be decisive.
After the first day of the hearing, a CWA representative hit out at Activision Blizzard and claimed the publisher "presented an exhaustive and dishonest case around Raven QA workers' job descriptions and day-to-day workflow in order to prevent them from moving forward with their union election." A GWA rep also described the situation as "demoralising," and claimed management are seeking to "thwart organization efforts."
Activision Blizzard, however, claims the union doesn't comprehend the business needs of the company, and reiterated its stance that every single Raven employee should have a say in whether or not the QA team is allowed to unionize.
"Despite the union’s heated rhetoric about this week’s hearing, it is clear they do not understand the studio’s business needs, day-to-day operations, nor the gaming industry in general. We remain focused on the facts and in making sure our employees have access to a full range of information about this election and how it could impact them and our entire studio," said an Activision Blizzard representative.
"This is an important decision that will affect everyone at Raven, and we believe that every eligible employee deserves to have their vote counted. We deeply respect the right of all employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union. We look forward to continuing a direct dialogue with employees about this important matter."
The NLRB hearing is still ongoing at the time of writing.