Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software workers vote to form industry’s first union

Workers in a division of video game company Activision Blizzard have voted to unionize, creating the first labor union at a major US gaming firm.

A small group of Wisconsin-based quality assurance testers at Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software, which develops the popular Call of Duty game franchise, voted 19-3 in favor of unionizing on Monday.

Though the group of about 20 workers represents a small portion of the company, which employs nearly 10,000 workers globally, the vote marks a symbolic victory for labor advocates in an industry increasingly mired with allegations of abuse and poor working conditions.

The unionization campaign by employees at Raven’s office had been part of a broader internal shakeup at Activision Blizzard, a Santa Monica, California-based gaming giant, after it was sued by California’s department of fair employment.

The suit alleged a workplace where sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation, and a “frat boy” culture – where men objectified women’s bodies and openly joked about rape – were rampant. In the fallout from the suit, Microsoft moved to purchase the company for nearly $69bn. It recently settled a separate federal civil rights lawsuit over allegations that management ignored sexual harassment and workplace discrimination against female employees.

Microsoft has said it wouldn’t interfere in any unionization efforts.

The Milwaukee office of the National Labor Relations Board counted the mailed-in ballots on Monday afternoon via video conference. A regional NLRB director had ordered a May election after rejecting Activision’s push to have it encompass a wider category of Raven workers, which could have diluted the unionizing group’s vote.

Activision Blizzard said in a statement Monday that it respected the right of workers to vote on a union but criticized the way those workers were being classified.

“We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 employees should not be made by fewer than 10% of Raven employees,” the company said.

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