The Rise of Video Game Unions in the United States

Recently, around 600 workers in Activision Publishing’s quality assurance department successfully formed a union with the assistance of the Communications Workers of America. This union, known as Activision Quality Assurance United – CWA, has become the largest video game union in the United States. The employees completed their vote, and the results were certified on Friday, March 8th. The union’s organizers attribute their success to Microsoft’s labor neutrality agreement with the CWA, which has made the process of organizing at the company and its subsidiaries, including Activision Blizzard, more manageable.

In quality assurance, workers play a crucial role in testing games to identify bugs and other issues, which are then flagged for developers to fix. Despite the essential nature of their work, QA jobs are often considered entry-level positions and are undervalued in the industry. This lack of recognition emphasizes the need for labor protections for these workers. Tom Shelley, one of the organizers of Activision Quality Assurance United, highlighted the challenges faced by QA workers, including weak protections and low pay.

Microsoft’s voluntary recognition of the union at ZeniMax online last year and the subsequent unionization at Blizzard Albany and Raven Software have set a positive precedent for the industry. Shelley praised Microsoft for its willingness to acknowledge and work with unions, expressing hope that it will inspire more organizing efforts within the company and beyond. The growing trend of video game labor unions gaining momentum highlights the industry’s recognition of the importance of protecting workers’ rights.

While video game labor unions are becoming more prevalent, they still face challenges, particularly in light of the widespread layoffs that have affected the industry. In 2023, the CWA filed an unfair labor complaint against Sega, alleging that the company was planning to phase out temporary employees who were part of the Aegis union formed the previous year. Despite these difficulties, union negotiations were able to save a significant number of jobs when Sega eventually carried out layoffs.

The rise of video game unions in the United States, exemplified by the formation of Activision Quality Assurance United, marks a significant milestone for labor rights within the industry. By advocating for stronger labor protections and organizing to address issues faced by workers in quality assurance and other roles, these unions are shaping a more equitable and sustainable future for video game industry employees.


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