Quality assurance workers at Activision Blizzard studio Raven Software have voted to unionize, becoming the first such group to do so at a major gaming publisher in North America. The National Labor Relations board counted the ballots on Monday — 19 workers voted in favor of the union and three voted against. Two ballots were challenged, though they weren’t sufficient enough to affect the result. There were 28 eligible voters and no void ballots.
In December, 60 workers (including contractors and full-time employees) at the Call of Duty support studio went on strike after it laid off 12 QA testers. They demanded that the company hire those workers back. The strike ended the following month, but not before the QA workers announced plans to unionize with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Once they were back at work, Raven split them up among various departments, in an apparent attempt to make their unionization efforts more difficult.
The workers asked Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognize their union, which they called the Game Workers Alliance. However, the company declined to do so. Last month, the National Labor Relations Board gave the workers the go-ahead to hold a union election.
Activision Blizzard has been accused of union busting. Last July, it hired the law firm WilmerHale, which has reportedly engaged in efforts to stamp out union drives at Amazon and other companies, to review its human resources policies. It also shared anti-union messaging in company Slack channels.
In April, Activision Blizzard said it was hiring 1,100 QA workers on a full-time basis, increasing their pay in many cases and providing benefits. However, it claimed the Raven QA workers were not eligible “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act.”
Earlier on Monday, the NRLB determined that Activision Blizzard violated the National Labor Relations Act. It claimed the company threatened employees who sought to organize and imposed an ‘overbroad social media policy.’
Activision Blizzard is being bought by Microsoft for $68.7 billion, pending regulatory approval. Microsoft has said it “will not stand in the way if Activision Blizzard recognizes a union.” The company told Axios in March that it “respects Activision Blizzard employees’ right to choose whether to be represented by a labor organization and we will honor those decisions.”
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