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Video Game Developers ‘Power Up A High-Stakes’ Unionizing Campaign - Multiple Undisclosed Union Campaigns Are Underway As Game Workers Seek Better Pay & Hours

Published Sunday, May 26, 2019
by Blomberg Law
Video Game Developers ‘Power Up A High-Stakes’ Unionizing Campaign - Multiple Undisclosed Union Campaigns Are Underway As Game Workers Seek Better Pay & Hours

(LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA) - It was 1 a.m. and R.J. Reyes was driving down a Los Angeles freeway when he realized he’d had enough. The sleep-deprived Video Game Developer felt his eyes grow heavy and his car veered suddenly.  There was no collision, but the scare left him with a realization: His job at a small Indie Gaming Studio with its long hours and low pay was demanding too much.

“I’m ‘practically killing myself,’” he said.  “That’s ‘when I realized, you know, not only is it not healthy, it’s not smart.’  I left (the company) ‘shortly after I found myself swerving on the road.’”

Gaming studios have long been known for grueling work conditions - from long hours and unpredictable schedules to precarious job security.

Now some Workers, like Reyes, are taking action.

Union Leaders and Grassroots Organizers are looking to tap into the dissatisfaction that some Game Workers are feeling by Unionizing the industry.

It could be a transformative fight for Organized Labor, propelling Unions into a tech-heavy space and delivering new Members to declining rosters. 

Multiple Organizing Campaigns are underway at gaming studios that haven’t been made public, one Organizer, who goes by Emma Kinema, said.

It’s a fast-paced development coming only about a year after the first mumblings of Unionizing began in earnest during a Game Developers Conference, according to Kinema, who’s affiliated with Game Workers Unite! (GWU) - a Worker-run advocacy group that’s laying the groundwork for Unionizing.

“We ‘saw that vacuum, we saw that need, and we just started running,’” said Kinema, who goes by a pseudonym for fear of reprisal at her job in the industry.

The GWU Volunteer estimates that the group has thousands of members spread across more than two dozen domestic and international chapters.

The group doesn’t have an official membership count and hasn’t disclosed the companies where members work.

“All of the chapters ‘are growing, in some of our cases growing very fast,’” one GWU Organizer in Los Angeles said.

He said his chapter has about a dozen core Organizers and a number of other members.

The National AFL-CIO, whose 55 Member Unions combine to represent about 12.5 million American Workers, has made organizing Video Game Developers a focus.

The group dispatched its second-in-command, Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, to the most recent Video Game Developers Conference in March, a year after GWU formed.

A month prior, she sent an open letter to game developers pro-actively welcoming them “into our Union Family.”

“The people in the video game industry ‘want’ a Union, ‘they want a voice, they want to be able to bargain collectively for a fair share of what they produce,’” National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said at an event in April.

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