Game developer

More than 30 workers at a Middleton-based video game developer join a union | Economic news

More than 30 workers at Raven Software – a Middleton-based video game developer whose parent company Activision Blizzard was just bought by Microsoft for $68.7 billion – have formed a union.

Workers are calling on Activision Blizzard management to recognize the union, called the Game Workers Alliance Union with the Communications Workers of America. The group was created on Friday, according to the AFL-CIO of Wisconsin.

Activision Blizzard said in a statement on Saturday that it was “carefully considering the request.” Activision notes that the group has about three dozen of its nearly 10,000 employees.

“While we believe that a direct relationship between the company and its team members provides the best workforce opportunities, we deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions. whether or not to join a union,” Activision Blizzard said. said the spokesperson.

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Launched in 1990, Raven Software creates several video games under Activision Blizzard, including the successful Call of Duty franchise. Workers who unionized said they worked primarily on Call of Duty, according to the AFL-CIO. Raven Software has a few hundred employees, so the union represents a fraction, but still a large portion, of the company’s entire workforce.

Activision received complaints of workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, and Raven Software employees staged an online strike in early December over unexpected layoffs.

AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale said in a statement Friday that her union stands in “solidarity” with Raven Software workers.

“Today marks a historic step in the movement to create positive change and build a better gaming industry for the workers who make video games,” Bloomingdale said. “Raven’s QA officers gather to sit at the table.”

Activision said it was already “focused on listening carefully to our employees.”

Activision revealed in 2021 that he was probed by the Securities and Exchange Commission on complaints of discrimination in the workplace, and the claims settled in September filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Activision reached an agreement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to settle the claims after a three-year investigation. The agency said Activision failed to take effective action following complaints from employees of sexual harassment, as well as retaliation and discrimination against pregnant staff members.

Meanwhile, Raven Software faced its own problems.

Hundreds of Raven Software employees refused to work in early December due to reports that 12 quality assurance team contractors had been laid off. Contractors test video games for technical issues. Their contracts expire on January 28.

Layoffs of 12 Raven Software employees in Middleton prompt 2-day walkout

The ABK Worker’s Alliance, a group of Activision employees, said on Tuesday the online walkouts were continuing because management had still not responded to a request for bargaining.

Bloomingdale’s said “giving gaming workers a real voice with the power of collective bargaining” is the best way to address these lingering issues.

Activision said it has improved salaries, benefits and job opportunities for its employees, including those at Raven Software. The company has extended paid vacations and expanded access to medical benefits.

For Raven’s quality assurance team specifically, Activision increased minimum compensation by 41% and transitioned more than 60% of temporary staff to full-time workers, Activision said.

Activision Blizzard acquired Raven Software in 1997 for $12 million.

Once the deal with Microsoft closes in 2023, Activision will have been part of what “could be one of the biggest tech acquisitions in history,” assuming the purchase survives scrutiny by U.S. regulators and Europeans, according to the Associated Press.

This would make Microsoft, the maker of the Xbox gaming system, one of the biggest video game companies in the world.

State Journal reporter Emilie Heidemann contributed to this report.