In January 2022, more than 30 quality assurance contractors at Raven Software,one of Activision Blizzard’s internal Call of Duty: Warzone studios, formed the Game Workers Alliance (GWA). It was a somewhat historic moment since the GWA is one of North America’s first video game unions.
Raven Software employees called off the labor strike that had been in progress since several contractors from Raven Software’s quality assurance department were laid off in December. Following the employee layoffs, the ABK Workers Alliance began fundraising in anticipation of the labor strike. The ABK Workers Alliance raised more than $360,000, which prompted management to respond.
Why Activision Blizzard Workers Formed Alliance
According to a statement released by the ABK Workers Alliance on Twitter, “Pending the recognition of our union, the Raven Quality Assurance strike has ended. Unused strike funds are being stored for future organizing and strike efforts.”
The Twitter statement reiterated that the ABK Workers Alliance is acting “in good faith” while awaiting recognition from Activision Blizzard. It read, “We have asked to be recognized under GWA, *pending* response from leadership. Either positive or negative. We are acting in good faith and asking for good faith.”
According to Brian Raffel, the head of Raven Studio, “As we look ahead at the ongoing expansion of Call of Duty: Warzone, it is more important than ever that we foster tighter integration and coordination across the studio — embedding will allow for this.” Raven employees have stated that the quality assurance employees are not treated equitably when compared to other teams in development. Often they’re contract employees who don’t get the opportunity to advance to full-time positions.
Activision Blizzard Responds to Union
According to Reuters, Activision Blizzard responded, “While we believe that a direct relationship between the company and its team members delivers the strongest workforce opportunities, we deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union.”
Thirty-four people in Raven Software’s quality assurance department are in the union, which the Communications Workers of America supports. “I hope that we are able to serve as an inspiration and to help guide other parts of Activision Blizzard … that want to follow in our footsteps,” says Raven quality assurance tester Onah Rongstad.
Raven Software’s Quality Assurance Testers Shape Their Future
Quality assurance testers can work up to 50 or 60 hours per week when deadlines are close. Rongstad explained that by forming a union, the Raven quality assurance workers hope to gain more of a say in the company’s decision-making and help define their working conditions.
“We collectively realized that our best interests weren’t going to be considered unless we fought for them ourselves,” explains Jessica Gonzalez, a GWA founder who says the road to unionization has been rocky. “It’s very difficult and continues to be difficult. The amount of pushback I was getting internally while working at Blizzard and advocating for diversity was insane. One of the major hurdles for unionizing is whenever a giant new story breaks, all of Activision Blizzard and King are thrown into one. Solidarity has to be a big part of it.”