Twenty-one Raven Software QA employees have until May 20th to submit their ballots in a historic video game industry union vote. Today the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decreed that voting for the union would commence and that the voting unit would be composed of those 21 employees, against Activision Blizzard’s argument that the voting unit should be opened to all Raven employees.
In a statement to The Verge, Activision Blizzard spokesperson Rich George said:
While we respect the NLRB process, we are disappointed that a decision that could significantly impact the future of our entire studio will be made by fewer than 10% of our employees. We believe a direct relationship with team members is the best path to achieving individual and company goals. We are reviewing legal options regarding a potential appeal.”
This is a watershed moment for these QA employees who started the journey toward unionization back in December 2021. After a round of layoffs hit the Activision Blizzard subsidiary studio, workers staged a walkout that became a sustained strike lasting five weeks. At the end of the strike, workers formally organized the Game Workers Alliance, the first union in one of North America’s biggest game companies.
Since then, Activision Blizzard has worked to undermine these unionization efforts. Its dispersed Raven QA employees across separate teams and argued that the voting unit for the pending union election should be open to all Raven employees thereby reducing the chance for its success. It also converted over 1000 contract and temporary QA employees to full-time and gave significant raises in pay — raises that were not extended to Raven QA employees.
“We are so proud to announce that the NLRB ruled that our unit is eligible for election!” the Game Workers Alliance said in a tweet. “Thank you to everyone supporting our campaign since our initial strike up until this very moment! Time for democracy!”
We are so proud to announce that the NLRB ruled that our unit is eligible for election! Thank you to everyone supporting our campaign since our initial strike up until this very moment! Time for democracy! #WeAreRaven #WeAreGWA
— Game Workers Alliance #WeAreGWA (@WeAreGWA) April 22, 2022
Once ballots are submitted by the deadline, the NLRB will tally the votes. A supermajority of the voting unit must vote in favor of the union for it to be officially recognized and bargaining can begin.
“We are pleased that after reviewing the evidence, the National Labor Relations Board rejected Raven Software management’s attempts to undermine our efforts to form a union,” members of the Game Workers Alliance said in a statement Friday evening. “It’s now time for Raven management to stop trying to prevent us from exercising our rights. We are looking forward to voting for — and winning — our union.”
Microsoft is set to acquire Activision Blizzard in a deal worth nearly $70 billion, though that deal isn’t expected to close until Microsoft’s 2023 fiscal year, which begins in July. Activision Blizzard will report earnings on Monday, April 25th, though it will not have a conference call or issue an earnings presentation.
Update April 22nd, 7:34PM ET: Added Game Workers Alliance statement.