Developers at Raven Software, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, have formed a union with a supermajority of quality assurance workers after five weeks of striking, just days after Microsoft announced it would be acquiring Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion.
The QA workers have asked for voluntary recognition for the formation of their union with the Communications Workers of America — called the Game Workers Alliance — from Blizzard management, according to a Friday announcement. QA workers at Raven have been striking since 12 people on fixed-term contracts were laid off when Activision Blizzard decided not to renew their contracts at the last moment in December.
"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," a spokesperson said in a statement to Protocol. "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."
The strikers, more than 60 of whom walked out in December, have demanded that all workers at Raven be offered full-time, salaried contracts, including the 12 laid-off workers. (The Raven QA department is primarily responsible for testing the Call of Duty game series, Activision Blizzard's most important franchise).
"For the 12 temporary workers at Raven whose agreements were not extended, we provided an extended notice period, included payment for the two-week holiday break, and will be working directly with those that need relocation assistance," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement in early January about the ongoing strike.
The Raven layoffs came months after Activision Blizzard was first publicly mired in scandal over both state and federal investigations into a workplace culture that permitted gender-based discrimination and harassment. The new union is the first to officially form within Activision Blizzard, though workers across the company have engaged in several walkouts and protests through an alliance calling itself "A Better ABK." Though "A Better ABK" is not a formal union, the group has worked with CWA to challenge the company's response to worker demands with the National Labor Relations Board, which protects federally mandated worker rights to organize and discuss salary.
The workplace crisis at the company reportedly instigated the company's decision to sell to Microsoft. It is not clear how or if Microsoft's planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard would shape unionization efforts, though it is unlikely there would be any real impact on the current process given that the acquisition could take more than a year.
CWA is also the first national union to push heavily for unionization across both the tech and games sector. In addition to the nine tech companies unionized in the last year with the national organization, the U.S.-based department of Vodeo Games became the first formal game developer union in the United States in December 2021. Last week, the Game Developer's Conference annual State of the Industry Report also found that a majority of developers support unionizing game studios.
"The goal of the Game Workers Alliance (CWA) is to represent what we as workers in the industry want as well as set a new standard for workers across the industry moving forward,” said Erin Hall, a QA functional tester II at Raven, in a press release.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Vodeo Games.