Blizzard Albany QA workers seek union election through NLRB

Jon Yelenic, Thursday, July 21st, 2022 3:40 pm

QA workers at Blizzard Albany–an Activision Blizzard-owned studio once known as Vicarious Visions–announced on Tuesday that they have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a union election, The Washington Post reported

The unionizing group, known as Game Workers Alliance (GWA) Albany, requested last week that Activision Blizzard voluntarily recognize the union–a request that the parent company acknowledged, but has yet to respond to. 

In a statement, Activision Blizzard spokesperson Rich George stated that while the company “deeply [respects] the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union,” it believes “that a direct relationship between the company and its employees is the most productive relationship.” George also stated that Activision would provide a public response to the NLRB petition. 

George’s comments echo rhetoric previously employed by Activision Blizzard leaders earlier this year, when the company was responding to Raven Software’s then-burgeoning QA union push.

“Across the company, we believe that a direct relationship between managers and team members allows us to quickly respond and deliver the strongest results and opportunities for employees,” Activision Blizzard said in January

Despite the company’s opposition, Raven’s QA staff successfully unionized just a few months later, with Activision officially recognizing the union shortly thereafter–the first of its kind at a big-budget game developer in the United States. 

For QA testers at Blizzard Albany, Raven’s story was pivotal to the decision to organize. 

“Raven has been a huge inspiration to us,” Blizzard Albany associate test analyst Amanda Laven said in an interview with The Post. “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 […] it’s been very, very helpful and inspiring.”

On Twitter, GWA Albany elaborated on its demands for its workers, which include competitive compensation, transparency in the workplace, and improved healthcare. 

“QA is currently an undervalued discipline in the games and software industries,” the group wrote. “We strive to foster work environments where we are respected and compensated for our essential role in the development process.”

Blizzard Albany’s union push is the latest in a string of unionization efforts at video game developers this year. In addition to Raven’s successful push, QA testers at Canadian developer Keywords Studios successfully voted to unionize just last month. 

Laven also referenced nationwide union pushes at companies like Starbucks and Amazon as sources of inspiration. The Starbucks union, Starbucks Workers United, announced on Wednesday that there have been 52 unanimous union election wins at Starbucks stores in the United States. Meanwhile, Amazon workers recently started a campaign to unionize the company’s Albany warehouse hot off the heels of the successful unionization of Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse. © 2024 | All Rights Reserved.