CODE-CWA Newsletter: January 6
CODE-CWA Newsletter: January 6
“We’re thrilled to kick off 2023 in a workplace that’s stronger and more equitable than it was last year. This is an empowering victory that allows us to protect ourselves and each other in a way we never could without a union. Our hope and belief is that this is the year in which game workers across the country exercise their power and reshape the industry as a whole,” said Skylar Hinnant, Senior QA Tester II, member of ZeniMax Workers Unite/CWA
Happy New Year! We’re starting 2023 union strong. On Tuesday, about 300 quality assurance workers at ZeniMax Studios, a subsidiary of Microsoft—overwhelmingly voted in favor of their union ZeniMax Workers United/CWA. As outlined in the principles Microsoft laid out in June, the company has formally recognized the union with the Communications Workers of America. ZeniMax Workers United/CWA is now the largest certified video game studio union in the U.S. and the first union represented U.S. unit at Microsoft. These workers join the wave of game and tech workers at Activision, Alphabet, Apple and dozens of other companies who have organized with CODE-CWA to build a better workplace.
Over the holiday break, a supermajority of workers at Activision Blizzard’s Proletariat studio also announced that they are forming the Proletariat Workers Alliance with CWA and have filed for a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board. The Proletariat workers are the third group at Activision Blizzard to file for a union representation election. The unit is wall to wall and includes animators, designers, engineers, producers and quality assurance workers.
Despite Proletariat becoming the third union to form a union at Activision, the company is actively union-busting. This is unsurprising given Activision-Blizzard’s union-busting history, but we now know what it looks like when a corporation takes the high road. Unlike other video game and tech corporations that fight back against workers exercising their rights, Microsoft made a public commitment around its labor principles which included respecting its employees’ right to form a union. When ZeniMax employees announced that they were organizing a union in December, Microsoft agreed to remain neutral and allow workers to make their own decision about whether or not to join the union. Anything is possible when we organize. It’s a new year and we’re here to help you get a seat at the table. Don’t wait! Reach out!
On Saturday, January 7 join us for an organizer training at 1 PM ET/ 10 AM PT where we talk about union basics, the CWA organizing models, and some key ways to connect with co-workers through organizing. Check the CODE-CWA organizer training program for upcoming classes!
Video Game Workers Win Microsoft’s First Union
300+ workers at ZeniMax, a Microsoft-owner parent company of gaming studios like Bethesda, have won their union with Communications Workers of America. The workers at ZeniMax organized to improve their pay, their hours, and have more flexible policies for remote work. “This is an empowering victory that allows us to protect ourselves and each other in a way we never could without a union,” said Skylar Hinnant, a worker involved in the organizing campaign. This union victory was very different from other wins; since Microsoft decided to remain neutral, it led to a more efficient process. Workers were allowed to sign a union authorization card, or vote anonymously which avoided the legal roadblocks usually associated with unionizing. The company also did not hold captive audience meetings or spread anti-union messages. “It was nothing short of an absolute gift,” expressed Autumn Mitchell, a worker active in the union effort. Microsoft entered a legally binding agreement with CWA in July, to remain neutral, if Activision Blizzard employees chose to unionize post acquisition. Microsoft decided to extend this to the ZeniMax workers, and has even said it would be open to extending this to current employees as well. If it does, more than 7000 employees would become eligible to join a union without intimidation or barriers. Read more on the New York Times
Proletariat Workers Become Third Group of Activision Blizzard Workers to Form Union with Communications Workers of America
During the last week of 2022, another group at Activision Blizzard publicly launched their union. “Everyone in the video game industry knows Activision Blizzard’s reputation for creating a hostile work environment, so earlier this year, when we heard that Blizzard was planning to acquire Proletariat, we started to discuss how we could protect the great culture we have created here. By forming a union and negotiating a contract, we can make sure that we are able to continue doing our best work and create innovative experiences at the frontier of game development,” said Software Engineer at Proletariat, Dustin Yost. The 57 worker group at Proletariat studios is unionizing with CWA and consists of engineers, producers, designers, animators, and QA testers. The studio is mainly working on World of Warcraft and is the third group to unionize at the company. The organizing unit has already filed for a union election with the NLRB, but Activision Blizzard has yet to respond. The group has asked for a permanent option for remote work, a thriving wage, robust healthcare, and no mandatory overtime. They also requested voluntary recognition and asked that the company bargain in good faith. Microsoft went into an agreement with CWA, stating that they would remain neutral if any employees wanted to organize. Many people believe that Activision Blizzard should follow in Microsoft’s footsteps. As Sara Steffens, Secretary-Treasurer of CWA said, “Microsoft has shown that even the largest American corporations can choose a different path and allow workers to freely and fairly choose whether or not they want union representation. It’s not too late for Activision’s leadership to change course and begin to repair the company’s public image and the relationship with their workers by recognizing the Proletariat workers’ union and committing to productive engagement at the bargaining table.” Read more here and on Reuters
Apple Illegally Formed a Company Controlled Union to Defeat Organizers in Ohio
The Communications Workers of America filed an unfair labor practice charge against Apple for multiple federal labor law violations. The charge alleges that the company held mandatory “captive audience” meetings at its Columbus retail location during which a store leader asserted that workers cannot successfully bargain over operational issues and threatened to take away employees' ability to have personal, one-on-one conversations with their manager. The company also tried to create its own union group that would be controlled by management. According to Apple the work group would be “a formal means for employees and leaders to provide feedback.” “Creating a work group controlled by management is undemocratic and a clear attempt at union-busting. If management actually cared about workers having a voice on the job, they would direct them to Apple Retail Union/CWA which is run by workers, not bosses,” said CWA’s secretary-treasurer, Sara Steffens. In 2022, Apple faced an unprecedented wave of unionization from Oklahoma to New York. Although some stores faced a robust union-busting campaign from the company, employees at dozens of stores are still discussing unionizing. The NLRB issued a complaint against Apple for interrogating staff, and discriminating against pro-union supporters. The company has also been found to have violated US labor law in Atlanta by the general counsel's office of the NLRB. Read more on Bloomberg
This Week in History
JANUARY 5 1869 – The nation’s first Labor convention of Black workers was held in Washington, D.C., with 214 delegates forming the Colored National Labor Union.
January 8, 1844 – Birthdate of Mary Kenney O’Sullivan, first AFL woman organizer. In 1880 she organized the Woman’s Bookbinder Union and in 1903 was a founder of the National Women’s Trade Union League.
Song of the Week
They have no answers for the real issues
like a livable wage, and enough sick days
a pension plan for the retirement age
we are the U N I O N
And we’re taking a stand, and we’re organizing
we’re taking control of our destiny
like a fearless lion, you can’t mess with me
because we have the right to organize
so don’t get deceived by the fear and lies
they’re trying to be slick and offer us bribes
One day stronger
another day longer
we stand together
we are the union