QA workers at Raven Software, Call of Duty studio, cleared to hold union vote

Margaret R. Servin

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In a Friday decision, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that a group of 21 quality assurance workers at Raven Software is eligible to participate in a union election.

In late January, that group of workers filed a petition with the NLRB for a union election after parent company Activision Blizzard missed a deadline set by the group to voluntarily recognize the nascent union, named the Game Workers Alliance. Activision Blizzard contested the filing, arguing that any union at the Wisconsin-based Raven would have to encompass all of the studio’s approximately 230 employees — a far broader swath of workers than just the quality assurance team. The NLRB’s decision rejected that argument, finding that the set of quality assurance testers was an appropriate bargaining unit.

The NLRB will mail out ballots to eligible employees — full-time and part-time QA workers at Raven who were working at the company during the pay period that ended on April 16 — on April 29. Voters in that group must return their ballots by close of business May 20. The ballot count will take place via video conference on May 23.

In an email to staff, Raven studio head Brian Raffel wrote that the company would host a town hall sometime next week to discuss the NLRB’s decision and “next steps.”

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In a statement, Activision Blizzard said it would review further legal options, including a potential appeal.

“While we respect the NLRB process, we are disappointed that a decision that could significantly impact the future of our entire studio will be made by fewer than 10 percent of our employees,” wrote Activision Blizzard spokesperson Rich George in a statement to The Post. “We believe a direct relationship with team members is the best path to achieving individual and company goals.”

Employees at Raven primarily work on games like “Call of Duty: Warzone” and mainline, annual release Call of Duty titles. In December, Raven promoted most of its contract quality assurance workers to full-time employees; in the process, the company also laid off 12 contractors. In response, approximately 200 employees across Activision Blizzard joined a walkout in protest of the firings. In January, the remaining quality assurance workers formed a union in response to the layoffs, and requested that management recognize the union voluntarily.

The NLRB’s filing, which includes a comprehensive rundown of the facts of the case, notes that “QA testers are the lowest paid employees at the Employer [Raven].” Even the pay increase to $18.50 that followed the workers’ promotion to full-time employees “would put the vast majority of QA testers at $38,430 annually, which is well below any other position’s listed minimum salary range,” according to the filing.

This is a developing story.

Shannon Liao contributed to this report.

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