In a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) meeting earlier this week, representatives from Raven Software and Activision Blizzard clashed over the next steps in employees' attempts to establish a union within the Quality Assurance department. Specifically, both parties disagree over who should be eligible to vote in union elections.
Although the proposed union is specifically of QA staff, Activision want the eligible voting group to contain as many employees as possible. In a statement given to the Washington Post, an Activision rep said: "This is an important decision that will affect everyone at Raven, and we believe that every eligible employee deserves to have their vote counted. We look forward to the NLRB’s decision."
This mirrors what Activision Blizzard said when initially declining to recognise the union last week.
Lawyers representing the fledgling union, which calls itself the Game Workers Alliance, argue that this is an attempt to dilute the voting pool. The people who most want a union for the QA department are staff working in the QA department, obviously, and not those working elsewhere within Raven. Game Workers Alliance say they have a supermajority, with 34 QA employees supporting the union.
Activision Blizzard also restructured the QA department last month, moving staff from a separate team to instead embed QA staff within particular development departments. Given the timing, this is also being seen by Raven staff as an attempt to undermine unionisation efforts.
"The first few days we were supposed to start the embedded testing model no one, not even management, knew who we would be directly reporting to,” one Raven employee told the Post. "Several weeks into being an embedded tester, it is still not clear to me exactly what I’m supposed to be doing."
Part of Activision Blizzard's argument is that a union "could limit the amount of overtime worked, which might affect the quality of a game upon launch." Using some of the billions Activision Blizzard generate to hire more staff to compensate is, I suppose, out of the question.
The decision on who gets to vote will ultimately be taken by the NLRB, a government agency.
QA staff at Raven decided to unionise after first walking out in protest of layoffs of QA staff which began on December 3rd. When announcing the union, workers also cited crunch conditions, low pay, and referenced the allegations of Activision Blizzard having a culture of harassment and discrimination. Activision Blizzard are, of course, also in the process of being bought by Microsoft for $69 billion.