Raven Software QA Testers Can Move Ahead With Union Vote Following NLRB Ruling

The ballots will be counted on May 23.

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that quality assurance workers at Raven Software can participate in a union election, which will start on April 29.

Raven's full-time and part-time quality assurance workers are seeking to form a union named the Game Workers Alliance, and filed a petition with the NLRB after parent company Activision Blizzard failed to voluntarily recognize the union. Activision Blizzard then contested the filing, stating that a union at Raven Software would have to include all of the studio's 230 employees and not just the 21 current members of the quality assurance team.

The NLRB has rejected Activision Blizzard's argument, noting that Raven's quality assurance team is an appropriate bargaining unit and observing that QA testers "generally earn less than all other classifications at Raven Studio." Ballots will be mailed to eligible employees on April 29, after which they will have until May 20 to return it. A ballot count will happen via video conference on May 23. If the union vote succeeds, the Game Workers Alliance will become the first union at a AAA North American game development studio.

A union vote at the Call of Duty-focused studio is the latest chapter in a months-long saga that saw Activision Blizzard employees walk off the job in protest and Raven QA members engage in a weeks-long strike in response to the company's firing of 12 contractors. Those contractors were laid off at the same time that Raven promoted other QA contractors to full-time employees. Once it became clear members of the QA team intended to unionize, Raven announced structural changes to embed members of the QA team within other Raven teams. While Raven leadership said this was done in the interest of more efficient game development, critics saw it as a way to potentially jeopardize the QA team's unionization efforts.

In a statement to the Washington Post, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said that the company is "disappointed that a decision that could significantly impact the future of our entire studio will be made by fewer than 10% of our employees." The spokesperson said the company will be looking at potential legal options in response to the NLRB's ruling.

The Raven Software QA team's union drive began shortly after it was announced that Microsoft intended to acquire Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, which itself came as Activision Blizzard found itself mired in controversy following multiple sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits and investigations. Microsoft has said it will not stand in the way should Activision Blizzard choose to recognize a union, stating "Microsoft 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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