CODE-CWA Newsletter: April 1

CODE-CWA Newsletter: April 1

“We’re really hoping that we're the first in a line of dominos. We saw how Starbucks workers got their first union store and then everyone started unionizing. We hope to see that kind of momentum.” - Eris Derickson, Google Fiber worker and member of AWU-CWA

CODE-CWA has had quite the last two weeks. We made our debut at the Game Developers Conference, where we were able to talk about our campaign efforts, organizing game studios, and how to combat low wages and burnout in the industry by forming a union. On top of that, we launched our own video game called the “Anti-Union Simulator,” which was a hit.

In case you missed it, Raven QA workers released a letter to the CEO of Microsoft urging the company to tell Activision Blizzard, who they plan on acquiring, to stop their union-busting tactics and voluntarily recognize their union Game Workers Alliance (CWA). If that’s not enough, hear more from Raven QA workers directly as they speak to More Perfect Union about the poor treatment, low wages, and discrimination they've faced while working for the video game giant.

CODE-CWA organizers are bringing their talents to fight back against injustices of the gig economy. Amanda Knightly, org committee leader from the Everyaction campaign has joined the Massachusetts Uber/Lyft fight as their digital organizing director. She will be working closely with Wes McEnany, our former CODE-CWA campaign lead on the Massachusetts is Not for Sale campaign. We wish them the best of luck!

Finally, Google Fiber workers have made history by becoming the first Alphabet Workers Union (CWA) unit with collective bargaining rights. The unit, although small, has a great significance in the world of unions. Temps, vendors and contractors account for more than half of Google’s workforce, yet they face lower pay and are not given the same benefits as full time employees, even if they work full time. This victory shows other workers and the world that it is possible to demand an equitable workplace and win, even against a giant corporation such as Google.

It is not difficult to see the impact CODE-CWA has had. We raise awareness about issues in the workplace, give people the tools needed to excel, and help workers like you achieve your career goals without compromising your physical and mental health. We fight for what is right and are successful — even if it does take a while. So don’t wait, help build a better workplace. CWA is ready to help and organize with you. Reach out!


On April 2nd, join us for an organizer training at 12 PM PST where we talk about union basics, the CWA organizing models, and some key ways to connect with co-workers through organizing. You can also attend our class on building a committee on April 9th at 12 PM PST. Check the CODE-CWA organizer training program for upcoming classes!

Worker News

Google Fiber Workers Vote to Unionize with AWU-CWA

Google Fiber workers in Kansas City, Missouri have won their NLRB election, making them the FIRST official bargaining unit of Alphabet Workers Union (CWA). The group decided to unionize after BDS connected solutions refused to give them the raises and bonuses they deserved, even though the company was making record breaking profits. The unit holds huge potential for inspiring other workers to do the same. “We want to try and reach out to the other stores that do our same job in other parts of the country and say, 'hey, we did this. It's possible. You can do it too,'” said Eris Derickson, a unionizing Google Fiber worker.

Read more on Vice and Wired

Video game workers ask Microsoft if it will approve unionization

15 Raven software workers signed a letter sent to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and vice chair Brad Smith. In the letter, Raven QA workers asked Nadella whether his company has authorized Activision to approve or oppose recognition of the union–or if it would potentially OK recognition. Activision Blizzard has been in the news a lot lately over allegations of a frat boy culture, sexual harassment and deliberate coverups. The company has suffered walkouts, protests, and several lawsuits which led to the $70 billion acquisition deal by Microsoft. In response to the letter a Microsoft spokesperson said “Microsoft will not stand in the way if Activision Blizzard recognizes a union. Microsoft respects Activision Blizzard employees’ right to choose whether to be represented by a labor organization and we will honor those decisions.” The workers were also dissatisfied by Activision Blizzard’s use of union-busting law firm Reed Smith. “I hope that you will agree that this demeaning and insulting approach to employees who are seeking to improve their workplace should not be tolerated,” reads the letter. Microsoft has not responded to the workers’ request that the company tell Activision Blizzard to stop its anti-union campaign. Read more on Axios and the Washington Post

U.S. Senators Pressure FTC to Review Microsoft-Activision Merger

On Thursday, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Cory Booker, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission citing concerns about Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, saying the deal could undermine employees’ calls for accountability over alleged misconduct. In the letter, the U.S. Senators urged FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan to assess whether the proposed acquisition would exacerbate the series of sexual-abuse, harassment and retaliation allegations at Activision stemming from recent federal and state investigations. Read more on Bloomberg and Polygon

A Q&A With Workers Leading the Games Industry’s Unionization Movement

This week, organizers and video game workers who attended GDC with CODE-CWA sat down with VICE to talk about the upsurge in labor organizing in the games industry, advice for games workers who want to unionize their companies, and what to keep an eye out for in the coming year. How did you become interested in the labor movement and unionizing the games industry? "Corporate kept making all the wrong moves, not making things better. I felt very beaten down. I felt very hopeless about everything. And then someone dropped the union authorization cards in one of our company wide Slack channels across all of Activision Blizzard. It felt like a concrete thing that we could do that would make a difference, a way to empower ourselves and our coworkers and to take back the power from the folks who were misusing it." Read the inspiring Q&A on VICE

Video game workers found their voices in the pandemic. Could unions be next?

Unions in the game industry are in their infancy, but things are changing. The pandemic has shaken up the industry. A surplus of opportunities and a lack of people to fill jobs them has motivated workers to speak up about the injustices in their workplace. In the long run, labor organizers see the video game industry following a similar path to Hollywood. Even after the first union was recognized in Hollywood, it took decades for unions to become commonplace. Even though it may take a while, unionization in the video game industry is inevitable, and every victory counts. “That’s the point of organizing at an industry wide level because, you know, whether the fights are smaller or big, they’re all connected.” said Emma Kinema, Campaign lead of CODE-CWA. Read more on LA Times

Communications Workers of America Make A Game Where The Bad Guy Is A Union-Busting Boss

The Communications Workers of America partnered with the Meow Wolf Workers Collective (CWA) to make a game about a unionizing cat. The game called the “Super Anti-Union Campaign Simulator” was unveiled at the 2022 Game Developer Conference. The game is another step forward in the fight to unionize the games industry and to shed light the challenges faced by workers. As CWA wrote, “We launched this game to reflect the growing worker organizing happening within the industry and to address the anti-union measures taken at companies like Activision Blizzard who in the past year has had workers walk out to protest sexual harassment and discrimination.” Read more on The Gamer

Activision Workers Fight to Unionize

“Activision Blizzard needs to be held accountable for the toxic workplace culture that’s been plaguing the video games industry for years,” said Jessica Gonzalez, a former Blizzard employee and founder of ABetterABK. QA testers at Raven software have been fighting to unionize for better working conditions. In November, QA testers at Raven software — a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard — were told they were going to get raises and promotions, but at the expense of their colleagues' jobs. After enduring poor working conditions, for most QA testers this was the last straw, so they responded by going on strike. After 7 weeks the strike ended with the testers forming the Game Workers Alliance (CWA). Even though the company is showing resistance, the workers have petitioned the NLRB for a union election and are awaiting a decision. Read more on Prospect

The video game industry is back to in-person events, for better or worse

The Game Developers Conference is an annual event where game developers gather to mingle and talk about all things gaming. The event is filled with a plethora of booths to showcase the innovation in gaming, as well as many panels to discuss the industry’s most pressing topics. One of the highlights of the event was the CODE-CWA members who made quite an impression during their first ever booth at the conference. As Nathan Grayson and Shannon Liao wrote “On the show floor, one of the most prominent booths was helmed by CWA...It’s the first year that the CWA has had a booth at GDC, and this year, volunteers have been eager to talk unionization with their peers." CWA also unveiled their new game at the conference about a unionizing cat and a 3 headed union-busting boss. Read more on the Washington Post

The five biggest takeaways from GDC  

With over 15,000 in attendance, the GDC was a successful event that highlighted some of the most promising issues in games. One of the forefronts of discussion at the conference was labor, and CWA’s booth was an important part of that discussion. The troubling workplace culture at Activision Blizzard, as well as the unionization effort across the industry were key reasons for why labor discussion was so important. As Cam Perry, lead programmer on “Validate,” an upcoming indie visual novel and role-playing game said, “as much as I love being a dev, there are a lot of problems in it. And if we are unionized, then maybe that will help people be able to speak up more than they already do without being blacklisted or having to deal with any amount of backlash.” Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist critic, also gave a prominent talk — “It’s been 10 Years Since Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games: What’s Changed?”— highlighting the misogyny in the games industry. Read more on the Washington Post

This Week in History

March 23 1932 - Norris-LaGuardia act passes that stops federal courts from placing certain barriers against organized labor and outlaws contract terms that prohibit employees from joining labor unions.

Song of the Week

Brave by Sara Bareilles

Everybody's been there, everybody's been stared down

By the enemy

Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing

Bow down to the mighty

But don't run, stop holding your tongue

Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in

Show me how big your brave is