Workers at Sega of America in Irvine, California have filed a union election petition with the National Labor Relations Board. The new union Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega is partnered with Communications Workers of America. It consists of a majority of 144 workers from Sega’s QA and localization departments, as well as marketing and product development.
Before the filing, with Sega workers about their experiences, the organizing process and what it meant to be part of an increasingly strong unionization movement in the video games industry.
The mission statement of the AEGIS union stated that “Our workers and audience deserve games to be made by people making a living wage.” In our quest to reclaim collective power, AEGIS has built bridges between workers across the company to better understand their shared issues and those unique to each department.
AEGIS is the first union of video game departments in the US. So far, video game unionization in the US has been led by QA departments.
Sega’s organizing has been going on for more than a year. Emma Geiger is a temporary localization editor. She says that remote work and siloed department made the initial effort difficult.
They said that “[Organizing] began with making friends.” You’d have two or three people from your team with whom you would hang out after work. You’d then see someone in the office, who wasn’t on your team but was working in the same area, and reach out. This bridges the gap a bit.”
Torie Winkler is a senior community manager. She said that the mutual love for the games on which she and her co-workers work facilitated the discussion and outreach necessary to get different departments involved in their unionization efforts. Winkler explained that she learned about the unionization procedure by talking to people in the localization or QA departments about games. She said that communication has been a success.
Winkler added, “And even though we’ve had discussions throughout this entire process, it has really helped me to form connections with people I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to speak to in my normal working environment.”
Sega of America has joined a growing group of game studios that are organizing. Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software subsidiary launched a series of union drives after its QA department voted in favor of organizing following the layoffs of. voted for unionization in Activision Blizzard Albany’s QA department late last year. A third Activision Blizzard Studio, Proletariat made their intention to unionize public before retracted that petition.
Microsoft’s announcement that it was interested in purchasing Activision Blizzard led to a statement stating it would be neutral on any organizing activities (in stark contrast to the potential acquiree which has received several unfair labor complaints). When QA employees at Microsoft-owned ZeniMax declared their intent to unionize their labor organization became immediately recognized. This avoided the need for a formal election.
Winkler and Geiger both said that they did not experience any anti-union sentiments in the management. They are also hopeful that Sega of America, and its Japanese parent will recognize the union voluntarily.
Winkler stated, “I hope management understands that this is not done out of animosity.” We are doing this out of respect for our coworkers, and because we want to create a sustainable work environment.