The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have ruled this week that Raven Software's 21 QA staff can vote on whether to form a union. The decision comes after months of arguments by Raven and Activision Blizzard management that the employees' petition be either denied or amended in such a way that, QA staff say, would have drastically reduced the chances of the vote being successful.
The QA workers have organised under the name Game Workers Alliance (GWA) and have partnered with the Communication Workers Of America union. In a statement posted after the ruling, the CWA said that union election ballots would be sent to eligible workers on April 29th and the votes counted on May 23rd.
Part of the disagreement between the GWA and Activision Blizzard related to who should be eligible to vote in the union. The GWA wanted Raven Software's 21 QA testers to vote on whether to form the union, given that said union would consist solely of those QA testers. Activision Blizzard argued that every Raven Software employee should be able to vote, including animators, programmers, producers and so on, as all would theoretically be impacted by the union's formation.
The GWA felt this was merely an attempt to block the union, given that those Raven Software employees who would not directly benefit from the union, and who are typically better paid than QA testers, would be a lot less likely to vote in its favour. The NLRB's didn't rule on that argument, exactly, but their decision does limit the vote to just the 21 QA workers. Their rules say that a given bargaining unit does not need to be "the only appropriate unit or even the most appropriate unit. Rather, the Act requires only that the unit be an appropriate one." The unit of 21 QA testers passes their tests for an appropriate unit, as set out in detail in the full NLRB ruling.
Activision Blizzard were predictably unhappy with the decision. "While we respect the NLRB process, we are disappointed that a decision that could significantly impact the future of our entire studio will be made by fewer than 10 percent of our employees," Activision Blizzard spokesperson Rich George wrote in a statement given to the Washington Post.
Raven's QA employees, however, say that Raven Software's management have been attempting to "undermine" their efforts to form a union. Those efforts, they say, include excluding them from pay increases given to other Activision Blizzard QA staff and retaining ReedSmith, a law firm QA employees say is "well known for advising clients on union busting tactics."
These efforts by Raven QA staff to unionise began after several employees in the department were let go, and amid ongoing lawsuits against and organisation efforts within parent company Activision Blizzard.