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Warzone studio votes to form biggest game dev union in the US

Call of Duty: Warzone Studio Raven Software's QA team has officially voted to unionise, with the pro-union side winning 19 votes to three

A soldier, a helicopter, and a jeep full of fighters aim their weapons at King Kong as he approaches from a forest of palm trees in Call of Duty: Warzone, whose QA studio has voted to form an employee union.

The members of Raven Software’s QA team, which recently contributed to the development of Call of Duty: Warzone, has officially voted to unionise, making it the highest-profile game developer union in the United States. The final vote was 19-3 in favour of forming a union, a total that will be certified by the National Labor Relations Board.

While Activision Blizzard can contest the results for the next seven days, NLRB certification of the vote will make the Raven QA team, Game Workers Alliance, an officially recognised union who will act as a bargaining unit on matters such as employee compensation, weekly hours commitments, and health benefits.

In April, Activision Blizzard argued that a union vote would have to include all employees of Raven, or more than 200 workers, in order to be valid, but the NLRB found that the smaller group of quality assurance workers were eligible to hold a vote on their own. Activision had refused to voluntarily recognise the union in January, which initially formed last year after Activision laid off a dozen QA workers at Raven. The layoffs prompted weeks of strikes at the massive publisher.

NLRB prosecutors have said that Activision Blizzard illegally interfered with the group’s collective action rights and threatened members to discourage unionisation, according to a Bloomberg report. Activision has denied the allegations.

Microsoft, which announced a deal to buy Activision Blizzard at the beginning of the year, has said that it would “not stand in the way” of Activision employees who form a union.

In July 2021, the state of California filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard alleging years of workplace discrimination and harassment. The story has since embroiled CEO Bobby Kotick and prompted the US federal government to open an investigation. It continues to unfold and to be of immense importance to the game industry. You can catch up on all the developments so far in this regularly updated explainer article.

While the Raven QA vote represents the first union at a major US games publisher, it isn’t the first game dev union in the US – that distinction belongs to Vodeo Workers United, which formed late last year at Threes developer Vodeo.

Happy union day!” Game Workers Alliance tweeted from its official Twitter account. “We won!”