Tony Hawk Studios Launches Second Alliance at Activision

Tony Hawk celebrates unions on his skateboard.

Image: Activision Blizzard

Blizzard Albany, formerly known as Vicarious Visions, is the latest Activision studio to launch unionization efforts. About 20 quality assurance staff in the office, which remastering Diablo 2 last year urged the publisher to voluntarily recognize the union, calling it “a seat at the negotiating table for our future”.

“We at Blizzard Albany are committed to an open, diverse and fair work environment,” Game Workers Alliance Albany said in a statement. announced on twitter today. “We demand an environment where our skills, ideals and democratic decisions are valued and respected.”

The staff is following in the footsteps of QA at Raven Software, which won a unionization vote back in May, and is teaming up with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Specifically, the group is asking for competitive compensation, better health insurance, pay transparency and a better work-life balance in regards to issues like crunch, the gaming industry’s term for long periods of overtime.

When Raven Software announced its intention to In the past year, Activision Blizzard balked and refused to offer voluntary recognition. Instead it’s organizational changes implementedheld anti-union ralliesand clicked on voting in the studio this could sabotage the growing labor movement. In the end, Raven QA employees unionized anyway, and now workers at the former Vicarious Visions studio are asking Activision Blizzard not to enter another protracted labor struggle.

“More than 95% of quality assurance testers signed a statement of concept requesting union recognition,” CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sarah Steffens said in a statement. The recognition of the union will show that the management of Activision Blizzard is serious about improving the working environment in the company. Engaging in a protracted fight in union elections will further damage morale and reinforce management’s reputation for creating a toxic and hostile work environment.”

The pressure is heightened by a recent pledge from Microsoft, which is currently in the process of buying Activision Blizzard for $69 billion. remain neutral with regard to unionization efforts. The announcement appeared to be intended to help assuage potential antitrust concerns from the Federal Trade Commission, which has final approval for the acquisition.

“Our top priority remains our employees,” said Activision Blizzard spokesman Rich George. Kotaku in an email application. “We deeply respect the rights of all employees, under the law, to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union. We believe that the direct relationship between a company and its employees is the most productive relationship. The company will publicly and formally submit a response to the petition to the NLRB.”

Unionization is also only the first step. Despite their previous win, Raven Software’s QA team still needs to secure their first contract, and if successful, Blizzard Albany staff will need to do the same.

Whatever the outcome, it’s a sign that the video game industry’s work organization is on the rise. Tuesday’s announcement comes after BioWare employees under contract to Keywords Studios successfully unionized in June, and after broader employee-led movements swept through Ubisoft and other gaming companies like big ones as well as small ones.

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