Quality assurance testers at Blizzard Albany have publicly announced their intention to unionise. Organising under the name GWA Albany, the team of around 20 employees is asking parent company Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognise the union.
“QA is currently an undervalued discipline in the games and software industries. We strive to foster work environments where we are respected and compensated for our essential role in the development process,” wrote GWA Albany on Twitter on Tuesday. The employee organisation intends to fight for competitive pay, improved healthcare and improvements to work-life balance, among other issues.
Blizzard Albany was formerly known as Vicarious Visions. Under that name, the studio has existed since the ’90s, and after being acquired by Activision in 2005 worked on Guitar Hero, various Skylanders games, and most recently led development of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. After completing work on that remake, the studio was merged with Blizzard Entertainment and renamed Blizzard Albany.
In a report in the Washington Post, Blizzard Albany associate test analyst Amanda Laven said that their efforts to organise were inspired by Raven Software, another Activision studio who won their fight for a union in May.
“Raven has been a huge inspiration to us,” Laven said. “Seeing their process, it’s been demystifying to see them do it first and have an idea of how things go and how the company might respond. We’ve already gotten to see someone do it in our own company, and they’ve been very forthcoming with us talking to us about what things are like and what problems they encountered.”
Activision Blizzard attempted to frustrate Raven’s QA staff’s attempts at organising. Bloomberg reported that the National Labor Relations Board would issue a complaint regarding Activision Blizzard’s conduct, with a government spokesperson saying prosecutors determined the company illegally threatened staff. Activision Blizzard denied any wrongdoing.
Blizzard Albany’s QA staff have filed for a union election with the US National Labor Relations Board. If Activision Blizzard refuse to recognise the union voluntarily, a successful election certified by the NLRB would force them to do so.
“We deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union,” wrote Activision Blizzard spokesperson Rich George in a statement given to the Washington Post. “We believe that a direct relationship between the company and its employees is the most productive relationship. The company will be publicly and formally providing a response to the petition to the NLRB.”
Activision Blizzard are currently in the process of being bought by Microsoft for $69 billion. Microsoft have said they won’t block unionisation efforts.