'Call of Duty: Warzone' studio will unionize without Activision Blizzard's blessing

The Game Workers Alliance, a group of Raven Software employees that recently gathered the votes to unionize, had until 6PM on January 25th to voluntarily recognize. The deadline passed without recognition from the company, so employees will move forward with plans to file for a union election.

The rights of all employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union are respected by the company. The parties couldn't reach an agreement.

In a series of posts, the organization confirmed its plans to file with the National Labor Relations Board.

This was an opportunity for the company to set new and improved standards for the workers.

Let's break it down by day because events have been happening quickly here.

  • The Game Workers Alliance is the first union at a large-scale North American video game studio after more than 30 quality assurance testers at Raven Software gathered enough signatures to unionize. This is about as good as it gets, since it is owned by the same company as Call of Duty: Warzone. By January 25th, the union signatories asked the leadership of the company to recognize the group.

  • The strike by workers at Raven ended on January 22nd. According to The Washington Post, the strike began in response to layoffs of 12 employees at Raven, all of whom signed their names to the unionization effort.

  • On January 24th, Brian Raffel sent an email to employees that said that they would be transferred to different departments across the studio. It is not uncommon atAAA studios. The next logical step in the process began several months ago.

It is more important than ever that we foster tighter integration and coordination across the studio as we look ahead to the expansion of Call of Duty: Warzone.

The timing of the announcement and the focus on the testers has concerned activist groups who have been fighting for cultural change at the studio since last year. Employees have walked out multiple times, calling for Bobby Kotick to step down as CEO, because of allegations of systemic gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the company.

It is not clear how the restructuring at Raven will affect the union going forward, but the worry is that it will impede members ability to coordinate with each other. The announcement was nothing more than a tactic to prevent workers from exercising their right to organize, according to the CWA.

Management uses meaningless buzzwords like alignment, synergy, and reorganization to send a message to workers.

An answer was provided to questions about the reorganization.

This is the next step in a process that has been carefully considered and in the works for some time, and this structure brings Raven into alignment with the best practices of other prominent Activision studios. It's a milestone in our plan to integrate quality assurance more into the development process as our teams strive to deliver best in class coordination in live service operations.

Today brings us all of that. The employees of the company have a majority of votes in favor of unionizing. The longer it takes, the more leverage the leadership will have.

Cornell professor of labor and employment law Risa Lieberwitz told The Washington Post that the structural changes shouldn't interrupt the unionization process, but that the timing raises the question of whetherActivision Blizzard are retaliating against the employees.

The full statement from a spokesman for the company is as follows:

All employees have the right to decide whether or not to join a union. We tried to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have led to an expedited election process. The parties couldn't reach an agreement.

The union is expected to file a petition to the National Labor Relations Board for an election. The company will respond to the petition promptly if filed. The most important thing to the company is that every eligible employee has the chance to have their voice heard and their individual vote counted, and we think all employees should have a say in this decision.

We believe that a direct relationship between managers and team members allows us to respond quickly and deliver the best results for employees. Over the past couple years, we have made a number of changes, including raising minimum compensation for Raven employees by 41%, extending paid time off, expanding access to medical benefits for employees and their significant others, and transitioning more than 60% of temporary employees. We are looking forward to working together to make our workplace better.

The video game landscape is poised to change completely after Microsoft announced plans to acquire a company. On the day after the news broke, the studio said in an SEC filing that there were no unionization efforts underway and that employees should consider the consequences of signing union cards.