The Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations reached out to game developers to once again discuss the idea about forming a union. The AFL-CIO represents more than 12 million workers in the United States and across 50 labor unions. Liz Shuler wrote an open letter on Kotaku. This is the first major public statement from the organization about organizing game developers.
This letter comes shortly after the massive layoffs that occurred earlier this week at Activision Blizzard, where nearly 800 people lost their jobs. Then, the company went on to discuss its record-breaking year in 2018. This is one of the points that Liz Shuler discusses in her letter. Video game sales in the U.S. reached $43 billion in 2018, which is about 3.6 times greater than the film industry’s record-breaking box office. “It’s a stunning accomplishment- one built by legions of tireless game developers,” Shuler says. She believes that it’s time for the industry bosses to treat game developers with “hard-earned dignity and respect.”
Liz Shuler asks developers what they get in return for all of their hard work. The industry bosses and executives talk and brag about the games that the developers create and they get billions from what gets made. Liz Shuler addresses this inherent problem rampant in the industry. “While you’re fighting through exhaustion and putting your soul into a game, Bobby Kotick and Andrew Wilson are toasting to “their” success,” Shuler said. “They get rich. They get notoriety. They get to be crowned visionaries and regarded as pioneers. What do you get?”
She brings up several cases that have happened recently involving game developers such as Rockstar Games and the issue with 100 hour work weeks, as well as another story about a game developer having to go the emergency room three times before taking off from work. “This is a moment for change. It won’t come from CEOs. It won’t come from corporate boards. And, it won’t come from any one person,” says Shuler.
The Secretary-Treasurer urges that the only way to change things is to come together. A collective voice will help gain the leverage needed to “bargain for a fair share of the wealth you create every day.” She mentions that the groundwork has started to get made with groups like Game Workers Unite.
She ends the letter with an emphatic statement of inclusion. “Your fight is our fight, and we look forward to welcoming you into our union family. Whether we’re mainlining caffeine in Santa Monica, clearing tables in Chicago or mining coal in West Virginia, we deserve to collect nothing less than the full value of our work.”