In April, QA workers employed by Keywords Studios, a major consultant of BioWare, filed to begin the process of unionization for QA testers currently working on BioWare projects. The impetus for the workers union largely stemmed from workers reporting Keywords Studios allegedly making its employees work “crunch hours” at the office during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when most companies were transitioning to working-from-home. Last month, Keywords Studios attempted to force its employees to return to BioWare offices; however, the fledgling workers union was able to overturn Keywords Studios compulsory office mandate, allowing Keywords Studios’ QA testers to remain working from home. Even with this constant conflict between Keywords Studios and its QA testers, as of today, the QA testers have voted in favor of forming a union.
According to Polygon, the Alberta Labor Board counted the votes today, and the union passed unanimously. This means all 16 eligible voters were in favor of forming a collective bargaining power that will most likely negotiate for better wages, working conditions, and benefits. These negotiations will occur immediately, as noted in the past by the Alberta Labor Board. Due to the undivided decision, one worker told Polygon, “We’re super happy. It will assist us going forward into bargaining that the whole team is completely united on this effort.”
In response to the union formed today, Keywords Studios stated:
Keywords Studios accept the vote of the 16 Edmonton staff who have chosen to unionize. We value our people and will continue to constantly strive to be a good employer. As an organization we want to ensure an engaging experience for all of our employees, and we take any concerns that our staff have seriously. We will continue to have an ongoing dialogue with all individuals in the Edmonton team, as we move forward together, always learning and improving.
This win symbolizes a new trajectory for the video game industry, especially in North America. Just two weeks ago, Raven Software QA employees, under the umbrella of Activision Blizzard, became the first North American video game union for a major AAA company. Now, with Keywords Studios’ QA testers winning their union efforts, it can illustrate a new frontier of North American video game culture: worker unions.