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QA workers at Blizzard Albany are unionizing

Update: An Activision Blizzard spokesperson says that the company will not willingly recognize GWA Albany.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

July 19, 2022

3 Min Read
The GWA Albany logo

A group of QA workers from Blizzard Albany, formerly Vicarious Visions, have formed a union to ensure they are "respected and compensated for our essential role in the development process."

The news comes shortly after QA staff at Raven Software successfully voted to unionize after a protracted battle that saw parent company Activision Blizzard allegedly employ union busting tactics to "thwart" their efforts.

Breaking cover on social media, Game Workers Alliance Albany (GWA Albany) said that QA is currently an "undervalued discipline" in the game and software industries and called on Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognize the union.

GWA Albany has organized with assistance from the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which also helped Raven QA workers with their unionization efforts.

"We, the QA testers of Blizzard Albany are committed to fostering an open, diverse and equitable workplace. We demand an environment where our skills, ideals, and democratic decisions are valued and respected. To that end, we have organized with the CWA to form our union," wrote CWA Albany on Twitter.

The group said it has formed to secure competitive and fair compensation, pay transparency, and better benefits and improved health care coverage. It also wants to help address disparities in titles and compensation to accurately recognize the contributions and abilities of QA employees.

Workers still want better of Activision Blizzard

In addition, the group has implored Activision Blizzard to establish transparent processes and lines of communication to help address all workplace issues, including misconduct and retaliation. It also wants the Call of Duty publisher to do more to improve the work-life balance of its employees, such as by establishing "reasonable protocols" to address crunch.

"We at Blizzard Albany pride ourselves on our craft and our culture. With a union, we will finally have a seat at the table for negotiating our futures. We ask that Activision Blizzard voluntarily recognize our union and respect our right to organize without retaliation or interference."

The news comes shortly after the CWA sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in support of Microsoft's mammoth $68.7 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard after the Xbox maker pledged to let Activision Blizzard staff "freely and fairly make a choice about union representation."

It also comes as Activision Blizzard continues to deal with a cultural crisis centred around serious allegations of harassment and misconduct that have sparked multiple government investigations and resulted in the departure of key staff.

With the publisher still attempting to reform its alleged "frat boy" culture, Activision Blizzard workers are preparing to stage another walkout on July 21 over the company's response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court and what are being described as "internal threats" to staffers.

Update: An Activision Blizzard spokesperson has informed Game Developer that the company will not voluntarily recognize this union. "Our top priority remains our employees," the spokesperson said in a statement. "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."

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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