On the picket line

Game developers vote union despite union-busting tactics 

The Raven Software quality assurance testers have organized under the Game Workers Alliance union in association with the Communications Workers (CWA). The National Labor Relations Board reported May 23 that a majority voted to join the union. 

Raven Software of Madison, Wisconsin, is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, a video game holding company based in Santa Monica, California. The parent company declined to voluntarily recognize the union in January; but instead they engaged in various union-busting techniques that are becoming all too familiar. First they fired several quality assurance testers and brought in new hires. Next, they integrated the Quality Assurance team throughout the company’s departments, in an attempt to undermine solidarity among employees attempting to organize. 

The NLRB shot down another union-busting attempt, when the company tried to dilute the pro-union pool by having all 230 Raven employees vote. The Board recognized that the quality assurance testers constituted an appropriate, separate bargaining unit. The same day the election results came out the NLRB ruled that Activision’s social media policy illegally intimidated workers.

In January, Microsoft’s announcement that it was buying Activision caused the latter company’s stock to jump 40%. 

Hawai’i mental health providers strike over critical worker shortage

The pandemic has increased the burden for mental health services everywhere, even in the “island paradise” of Hawai’i. The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Hawai’i released a statement calling for support of mental health care providers, due to the great stress put on them because of workforce shortages. 

The psychologists and other mental health workers at Kaiser Permanente are frustrated by the company’s disregard for the well-being of the workers and their patients. Contract negotiations have dragged on for four years. One patient, Carlos from Maui, reported waiting four months for an appointment with a mental health provider, even though he was in crisis. 

The mental health workers at Kaiser Hawaii took action May 18 by calling a three-day strike to demand the company increase staff numbers and retention incentives. The 47 full-time mental health care providers are members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). “None of us wanted to do this,” said Kaiser Maui Lani Primary Care Clinic psychologist Rachel Kaya. “We’ve really tried everything we could do first and found that management is not interested in offering us an incentive to not strike.” (tinyurl.com/2p957tzm)

Disabled janitors win NLRB ruling

Janitors at an acute care facility of Sinai Hospital in Baltimore prevailed in their drive to join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Healthcare Workers East, despite attempts by the hospital to deny they are employees. The janitors hired through the Vocational Service Program (VSP) have disabilities, and Sinai Baltimore attempted to characterize them as rehabilitative associates rather than employees. This classification allows companies to pay disabled workers less than the minimum wage.

However, the NLRB ruled against Sinai Baltimore and determined the VSP janitors are lawful employees and eligible for collective bargaining rights through union representation. The VSP janitors do the same work and are subject to the same employee policies as janitors hired by the hospital directly. 

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