Activision’s Raven QA Workers Vote to Unionize

The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of starting a union.

Raven Software’s quality assurance team, a core part of the studio that contributes heavily to the Call of Duty series and specifically Warzone, has voted 19-3 in favor of unionizing. This is the next and most dramatic step in an ongoing saga that started with layoffs last year.

While not the first gaming studio to unionize in North America — that distinction belongs to Beast Breaker developer Vodeo Games — Raven’s QA department is perhaps the most prominent under a large and infamous publisher. Activision has been accused of attempting to bust this union as recently as today, according to a new report by Bloomberg.

QA’s role in software development is pivotal, being the first and final line of defense against bugs for an optimal game experience. For as important as it is, though, it’s also woefully underappreciated and underpaid. When Activision laid off QA staff from Raven after allegedly promising them raises just before, the department went on strike. That strike snowballed into today’s vote, which took place over a public Zoom meeting.

“The layoffs followed repeated assurances from leadership that ‘positive departmental changes’ were on the way for QA, which was used as a reasoning for none of its members receiving any kind of promotion or raises originally set to be in place by March of this year,” we wrote last December. “Instead, 12 employees were laid off, even after they’d relocated to Wisconsin to work at the studio’s Middleton headquarters when the team started working in person again.”

The strike itself lasted several weeks.

At the Game Developer’s Conference this year, a record 54 percent of 4,000 developers surveyed said they favor unionization efforts in the industry, up from 47 percent the previous year. While the QA department of Raven Software is a relatively small cog compared to the rest of the industry, it’s a crucially important step in doing something that most of the industry seemingly supports. Considering how aggressively Activision-Blizzard is fighting these efforts, it can only be a good thing.