Activision QA workers form the largest US video game union yet

Vector illustration of the Xbox logo.
The Verge

Around 600 workers in Activision Publishing’s quality assurance department have formed a union. Assisted by the Communications Workers of America, the employees completed their vote with the results certified on Friday, March 8th. With that, Activision Quality Assurance United – CWA becomes the latest union to arise out of Microsoft’s gaming division and the largest video game union in the United States.

In 2022, Microsoft affirmed a labor neutrality agreement with the CWA which eases the organization process at the company and its subsidiaries including Activision Blizzard.

In an interview with The Verge, Tom Shelley, a technical requirements specialist and one of Activision Quality Assurance United’s organizers, said the labor neutrality agreement and Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard last year made their goals of unionizing easier to accomplish.

“This has been an emergent effort that’s arisen in the last few weeks in response to the opportunities we’ve had to freely organize following the merger,” Shelley said. “As QA workers, we often have the weakest protections and lowest pay of any workers in the industry — even though our work is integral to the success of the companies we work for and the titles we make.”

In quality assurance, workers test games looking for bugs and other issues, flagging them for other developers to fix. Since the majority of QA jobs are typically entry level, the industry has a reputation for devaluing these roles, emphasizing the need for labor protections.

Shelley praised Microsoft for voluntarily recognizing the union and hopes it will inspire more organizing at the company and beyond.

Last year, Microsoft voluntarily recognized a union of 300 QA workers at ZeniMax online. It joined the union at Blizzard Albany and Raven Software. Video game labor unions are picking up steam but have faced difficulties in light of the rampant layoffs. In 2023, the CWA filed an unfair labor complaint against Sega, claiming the company was planning to “phase out” temporary employees who were part of the company’s Aegis union that formed last year. When Sega eventually did lay off employees, Aegis said union negotiations were able to save a number of jobs.