Tony Hawk Studio Blizzard Albany Announces Union Drive

GWA Albany is the second union to form at Activision Blizzard.
GWA Albany is the second union to form at Activision Blizzard. / SOPA Images/GettyImages

A group of quality assurance testers at Blizzard Albany went public with its attempts to unionize Wednesday, beginning with what could become the second union at Activision Blizzard.

Blizzard Albany, known until recently as Vicarious Visions, is best known for developing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 and Skylanders. Around 20 of its employees have filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, and asked Activision Blizzard management to recognize the union July 14, The Washington Post reports.

Activision Blizzard acknowledged the workers' request, but has yet to recognize the union.

"We deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union," Activision Blizzard spokesperson Rich George said in a statement. "We believe that a direct relationship between the company and its employees is the most productive relationship. The company will be publicly and formally providing a response to the petition to the NLRB."

The worker group seeking union status is known as Game Workers Alliance Albany, and was organized in collaboration with the national Communications Workers of America. Its name is broad enough to allow other worker groups to join in the future, and recalls the Game Workers Alliance union formed by QA testers at the Activision Blizzard-owned studio Raven Software earlier this year (also with the CWA's help).

In a statement published via Twitter, GWA Albany listed the following goals for the union:

  • Competitive & fair compensation, pay transparency, better benefits & improved health care coverage
  • Address disparities in titles and compensation to accurately recognize our contributions & responsibilities
  • Establish transparent processes & lines of communication for addressing all workplace issues, including misconduct and retaliation
  • Improve the work-life balance of our workers, including establishing reasonable protocols to addressed demands of 'crunch' time

"We at Blizzard Albany pride ourselves on our craft and culture. With a union, we will finally have a seat at the table for negotiating our futures," the group wrote.

Amanda Laven, an associate test analyst at Blizzard Albany, told the Post she firmly believes "that having the union is going to give us the power that we need to make our workplace better.

"It's very exciting to go public with it and hopefully be able to inspire others the way that we've been inspired by Raven, and Starbucks and Amazon and all the unions that have come before us."

Activision Blizzard agreed to be acquired by Microsoft earlier this year in a $69 billion transaction. The company has so far aggressively fought unionization efforts at its studios, but should the acquisition go through Microsoft will likely be far more agreeable — the company signed a labor neutrality agreement with the CWA in June that should protect Activision Blizzard employees' rights to organize.

Even at locations without public union drives, Activision Blizzard employees are organizing. They've planned walkouts Thursday at offices across the country and virtually to protest the overturn of Roe v. Wade and push for greater workplace protections.