The Rise of Video Game Unions in the United States

The Rise of Video Game Unions in the United States

In a groundbreaking move, approximately 600 workers from Activision Publishing’s quality assurance department have come together to form a union. With the support of the Communications Workers of America, the employees completed their vote, officially certifying the results on Friday, March 8th. Activision Quality Assurance United – CWA is now the largest video game union in the United States and the latest addition to emerge from Microsoft’s gaming division.

The journey to unionization was made smoother due to Microsoft’s previous affirmation of a labor neutrality agreement with the CWA back in 2022. This agreement extended to all Microsoft subsidiaries, including Activision Blizzard. Tom Shelley, a technical requirements specialist and one of the key organizers behind Activision Quality Assurance United, highlighted the role of Microsoft’s acquisition in facilitating their goals of forming a union. Shelley acknowledged the struggles faced by quality assurance workers, emphasizing the importance of fair labor practices in an industry that often undervalues their contributions.

The Importance of Quality Assurance

Quality assurance workers play a crucial role in the gaming industry by testing games for bugs and ensuring a seamless user experience. Despite the integral nature of their work, QA jobs are often considered entry-level positions with minimal job security. This disparity in recognition and compensation underscores the necessity for labor protections and collective bargaining rights for QA employees. Shelley commended Microsoft for their proactive stance in recognizing the union and expressed hope that it would encourage similar initiatives within the company and beyond.

While the formation of video game unions is a positive development, it has not been without obstacles. The volatile nature of the gaming industry, characterized by frequent layoffs and restructuring, presents challenges for unionized workers. In 2023, the CWA filed an unfair labor complaint against Sega, alleging that the company was planning to “phase out” temporary employees who were part of the Aegis union formed the previous year. Despite these difficulties, union negotiations were able to secure the jobs of several employees when Sega eventually carried out layoffs.

The rise of video game unions in the United States marks a significant shift towards advocating for the rights and fair treatment of workers in the gaming industry. Activision Quality Assurance United’s unionization, supported by Microsoft and the CWA, sets a precedent for collective action and solidarity among quality assurance workers. As video game unions continue to gain traction, it is essential to address the unique challenges faced by workers in this dynamic and competitive industry.

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