If you take away anything from the mass layoffs like what has happened with Activision Blizzard and TellTale Games, we know that we can't expect all companies to operate with the best interests of all of their employees, from top to bottom, in mind. One option that has been regularly echoed when things like this happen is the wider adoption of unions within the gaming industry.
If you missed it, Activision confirmed the rumors that significant layoffs were underway after simultaneously revealing major profits in their earnings report. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations or AFL-CIO, the largest collection of unions in the United States, has something to say to game developers this and similar events and did so via an open letter published by Kotaku. This letter from Liz Shuler, the secretary-treasurer for AFL-CIO, serves as the entity's first major public statement about organizing game developers. You can read the full letter on Kotaku, but here are a few of the highlights.
Schuler starts off by pointing that the video game industry is a "meteoric success story", having reached $43 billion in game sales in 2018, which is 3.6 times more than the film industry's record year. She continues by expressing that the "stunning accomplishment" that number represents is "built by legions of tireless game developers" and that it is time for "industry bosses to start treating you with hard-earned dignity and respect." Somehow, even all of that is an understatement. The final segment, essentially a call-to-action, speaks for itself:
"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.
Change will happen when you gain leverage by joining together in a strong union. And, it will happen when you use your collective voice to bargain for a fair share of the wealth you create every day.
No matter where you work, bosses will only offer fair treatment when you stand together and demand it. Fortunately, the groundwork is already being laid as grassroots groups like Game Workers Unite embrace the power of solidarity and prove that you don’t have to accept a broken, twisted status quo.
You have the power to demand a stake in your industry and a say in your economic future. What’s more, you have millions of brothers and sisters across the country standing with you.
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."
What is your take on the many layoffs across not only game development, but gaming journalism as well? Sound off in Chatty and stay tuned to Shacknews for additional updates.
Charles Singletary Jr posted a new article, AFL-CIO pens open letter to game developers about unions
Good article. He's right about how change starts, too. I'm concerned that folks wont do it because they see unions as blue collar things. His examples of industries that are unionized probably won't resonate with the average software developer, but they really need a win of this scale to impact even more industries - possibly software development broadly.