Helena Lyng Blak
10 weeks ago

New Activision labor union is the largest in the US gaming industry

600 quality assurance workers have come together to form the union.
Gaming controllers in front of a smartphone depicting the Activision Blizzard logo.
Sergei Elagin / Shutterstock.com

With the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the quality assurance workers at Activision have established the largest union in the US gaming industry, boasting around 600 members.

The union, named Activision Quality Assurance United-CWA is,  according to CNBC, seeking higher wages and better career opportunities.

What is Quality Assurance?
Quality Assurance workers test games for bugs, glitches, and other flaws, ensuring the quality of the final product.

Tom Shelley, a technical requirements specialist at Activision, explained in an interview with The Verge: “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.”

Activision Blizzard
Activision, a leading video game publisher, is part of Activision Blizzard. This parent company is behind some of the most successful video game franchises, including Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Diablo, as well as the popular mobile game Candy Crush Saga.

In 2023, Activision Blizzard was acquired by Microsoft for nearly $69 billion, becoming a subsidiary of Microsoft Gaming.

Microsoft’s neutrality agreement
As part of the acquisition, Microsoft agreed to a new labor neutrality agreement, under which this union is the first to organize.

The agreement, hailed as “groundbreaking” by the CWA, requires Microsoft to remain neutral when Activision Blizzard employees show interest in unionizing and 

The agreement also facilitates an expedited unionization process for employees, writes The New York Times

A critical time for the game industry
This move towards easier unionization comes at a critical time for the video game industry, which experienced an unprecedented number of layoffs in 2023. 

According to Eurogamer, about 10,500 industry employees were laid off last year, with projections for 2024 exceeding 7,500 layoffs. 

In January alone, Microsoft dismissed 1,900 employees at Activision Blizzard and Xbox, Reuters reports.

The New York Times notes that Activision Blizzard workers have been organizing since 2021, when more than 1,500 employees staged a walkout in protest of management’s handling of sexual harassment cases. Since then, organization efforts have focused on unionizing.

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