CODE-CWA Newsletter: December 12
CODE-CWA Newsletter: December 12
“When workers have the opportunity to join a union without company interference, it empowers them to have their voices heard in the workplace. We are glad to support ZeniMax quality assurance workers as they join the growing video game labor movement in the U.S. These workers are making history, joining the wave of game and tech workers at Activision, Alphabet, and dozens of other companies who have organized with CODE-CWA to build a better workplace.” - CWA President Christopher Shelton
Big news on unionization efforts in the video game industry. On Tuesday QA workers at Zenimax, a subsidiary of Microsoft, announced they are forming a union with the Communications Workers of America. If the workers vote for the union, Zenimax will be the first video game studio union at Microsoft, and the largest group of union-represented Quality Assurance testers at any U.S. game studio. While other video game and tech giants have made a choice to attack and undermine their own employees for organizing, Microsoft has remained neutral toward the union. The company will voluntarily recognize the union if a majority of eligible workers express their preference for the union either by signing a union card or voting through an electronic portal.
Another group of QA testers have also successfully organized at Activision. Albany Game Workers Alliance/CWA are now the second certified union at Activision Blizzard. This win comes on the heels of Raven Software QA workers, who became the first certified union at Activision in May. The organizing at ZeniMax and Activision prove workers across the video game industry are collectivizing to reject burn out culture, crunch, wage discrepancies and more.
Organizing can be a difficult and stressful process when companies pour resources into opposing, rather than remaining neutral to the union effort. However, every once in a while a glimmer of hope shines through. In an unprecedented move for the industry, Tech behemoth Microsoft has agreed to stay neutral on a union vote by some 300 employees. Regardless, with every passing month it looks like good news is on the rise. Some companies are voluntarily recognizing their worker’s union, others are moving out of the way, and even small groups are organizing in the unlikeliest of places. This is the power of hard work, perseverance and of speaking up for what you deserve. Don’t wait! Don’t give up! Reach out! Organize now!
P.S. You can find a step-by-step guide to unionize here and in the article below.
Check the CODE-CWA organizer training program for upcoming classes!
Video Game Workers at Microsoft Take Steps to Unionize
300+ workers at ZeniMax Media, a Microsoft-owner parent company of gaming studios like Bethesda, are voting on unionizing with Communications Workers of America. This would be the biggest U.S. gaming union in the US and a first for Microsoft, which says it will stay neutral. The process for the election will be more efficient than usual because the NLRB did not need to intervene. If successful this could be huge for the games industry due to the size union and the importance of Microsoft in the market. As Autumn Mitchell, a QA tester who is working on an upcoming Microsoft game, said “It’s been an incredible weight lifted off our shoulders.” . Read more on the New York Times
Blizzard Albany Becomes Second Studio at Activision to Win Union
Almost 20 quality assurance testers in Albany, New York have won their union election and have joined the Game Workers Alliance/CWA. “We knew we were gonna win, but it’s still extremely exciting and gratifying, especially because tomorrow marks the first anniversary of when we started organizing,” said Amanda Laven, a QA tester at Blizzard Albany. Blizzard Albany used to be called Vicarious Visions, and is owned by Activision Blizzard much like Raven studios in Wisconsin. In fact it was the group of QA testers at Raven studios who inspired this group in Albany after winning a union election in March. Activision Blizzard has been employing union busting tactics for many months but were unsuccessful. Building a union at places like Activision is an important step to countering the rampant greed that plagues the upper echelons of the tech industry, our government and the world at large.” Read more on the Washington Post
Activision Blizzard Has Another Union on Its Hands. Now What?
The QA testers at Blizzard Albany have formed the second ever at a AAA games studio in North America. Even though they won, Activision Blizzard did not make it easy. Last month the company petitioned the NLRB to impound employee ballots because QA testers did not comprise a big enough unit and that all employees working on the same project should be included. “We acknowledge that game design requires an extraordinary degree of functional integration and contact among departments, which weighs in favor of a combined unit. [However, QA testers] have notably lower wages than excluded employees,” ruled the NLRB. Now that they have won, they will have to agree on a collective bargaining agreement with Activision Blizzard. Still, Activision Blizzard has fallen extremely short on worker demands made over the past few months. As Kara Fannon, a QA functional tester explains “Activision Blizzard is doing what is legally required of them. That is the most positive thing I can say. The lack of transparency leaves many employees with little faith that things will actually change. ‘We’re working on it’ isn’t enough.” Activision Blizzard is also continuing to employ union busting tactics. Nevertheless, employees at Activision Blizzard are not staying quiet. They plan to keep fighting and speaking up at every opportunity they can. Read more on Wired
The Rise of the Video Game Union: Literally Everything You Need to Know About Video Game Unions
All across the games industry, workers have had to deal with discrimination, low pay and crunch. Lots of employers hide injustices and poor working conditions by telling workers they are doing a job that they love. After dozens of conversations and over a decade of insight into the game industry, it has become clear that the video game industry will not repair itself. As workers from Activision to ZeniMax and more begin to rise up, Polygon has made a clear and extensive 101 guide to unionizing. These steps include how to start the conversation to get to know your co-workers and your shared interests; getting external support by reaching out to a union like CWA; expanding the squad, creating goals, and making a group structure; and requesting formal recognition by approaching management as well as the NLRB to certify your union. It's clear the games industry needs to change. As Emma Kinema, senior campaign lead for CODE-CWA said, “let’s not fracture our movement. Workers are weaker when we are divided. If you want to build a strong, powerful labor movement, join where your co-workers and fellow peers in the industry already are.” Read more and download the step-by-step instructions on Polygon
Noble Knight Board Game Store Agrees to Recognize Workers’ Union
A board game store in Madison, Wisconsin, Noble Knight Games (NKG), has voluntarily recognized their workers’ union. This surprising turn of events comes after the company released a statement last month refusing to recognize the union.. According to Noble Knight Games United/CWA, the company overturned its decision after feedback and discussion from workers. The company has also said it will bargain in good faith. Noble Knight Games United is overjoyed at the turn of events and has asked customers to show support on the store’s official social media. In a message to customers through their social media accounts, NKGU explained “We want NKG to thrive. We’re honored and grateful to serve such a supportive community in Madison, the US, and around the world. We appreciate everything you have done and hope you’ll continue to support us as we enter the bargaining phase!” Read more Here
This Week in History
DECEMBER 10, 1948 – Int’l Human Rights Day, commemorating the signing at the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, in part: “Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”
Song of the Week
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in our mine the
Whole day through
To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig is what we really like to do
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig from early morn till night
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig up everything in sight
We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies, sometimes more
But we don't know what we dig 'em for
Communications Workers of America File Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against eBay-owned TCGPlayer For Unlawful Surveillance of Union Activity, Employee Coercion
Workers at TCGPlayer Become First Group at eBay to Form Union with Communications Workers of America