The Communications Workers of America (CWA), one of the nation’s largest unions, has pledged support to game workers as they launch The Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE), a plan to combat allegation of unpaid overtime and lack of job security in the gaming industry.
CWA announced the campaign this Tuesday, in which they listed the issues they most hear complaints about the tech industry as a whole. These include unequal pay, excessive unpaid overtime (also known as “crunch”), poor treatment of contract workers, and even sexual assault.
Their announcement links to articles regarding Bethesda’s alleged mishandling surrounding accusations of sexual assault, and the crunch it took to make titles such as Call of Juarez: The Cartel, among other controversies of the past few years.
In practical terms, this means that the Communications Workers of America will be working alongside Game Workers Unite, an advocacy group that has been attempting to organize game workers but is yet to find success in the big companies. However, with their co-founder, Emma Kinema, leading the initiative, they may find more success with this elevated platform, and the resources they are promised by CWA.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, CWA elaborated that the aim of CODE is to unionize entire workplaces as one group, rather than split them based on position in the company, or the current model which sees individual members join themselves. If successful in a game studio, this would be the first of its kind in the industry.
“We believe workers are strongest when they’re together in one shop in one union, so the disciplines can’t be pitted against each other—none of that’s good for the workers”, said Emma Kinema, co-founder of Game Workers Unite.
CWA represents 700,000 members and has existed since 1947. To have a partnership with such a mainstream union is perhaps the biggest step in-game worker organization the founding of Game Workers Unite two years ago.
This isn’t the first coordinated effort for game workers to protest workers’ rights abuses. In May 2019, 150 Riot Games employees walked out of their offices over the handling of workplace harassment lawsuits. They found success, with Riot paying out $10 million over gender discrimination.
More recently, Game Workers Unite took their first fight to a company directly, when they accused Ustwo Games of “union-busting” when one of their members was fired from the company. They threatened to launch legal proceedings against the developer, but it is unknown if they have gone through with this.