Developers At Two Major Studios Have Successfully Unionized


Developers at Avalanche Studios Group and CD Projekt Red have separately unionized in the latest wave of labor organization in video game development.

Over 100 developers at Avalanche Studios, creators of Just Cause and the upcoming Xbox-exclusive Contraband, have joined the Swedish trade union Unionen, according to a report from IGN. Of approximately 500 employees at Avalanche, over 100 are now part of Unionen.

In Sweden, workers can join a trade union at any time, without a union election in their workplace. According to Unionen (via IGN), roughly 70% of employed people in the country are part of a union. Because of these high numbers and the long history of union organization, local boards have the power to negotiate general working conditions. They also receive a vote on major company decisions like hiring and firing, as well as the addition of C-suite executives. Unionen's current negotiations with Avalanche also represent and include Avalanche employees who are part of different unions.

Last November, Avalanche issued an apology for hiring an higher-up who had been publicly accused of inappropriate workplace behavior. The incident allegedly kicked off further discontent about the company's hiring practices.

A union representative gave the following statement to IGN:

"We (by which I mean the board of the local union branch) are very hopeful about the prospect of signing a collective bargaining agreement, and believe that this will be a great step towards ensuring that the thoughts, ideas, feelings, and opinions of Avalanche's employees are given the representation that they deserve. We look forward to working together with company leadership to make the company better."

When requested for comment, an Avalanche spokesperson provided this statement to IGN:

"As an employer, we’re committed to creating the best possible conditions for all Avalanchers to thrive. We support and welcome any initiative that goes in this direction. This also means that we listen, invite dialogue, and encourage people to bring forward their perspectives and needs. After all, it’s thanks to each and every Avalancher that we’re able to make the great games we’re known for."

CD Projekt Red workers formed a union as part of the larger Polish org OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza. This chapter, called the Polish Gamedev Workers Union, can theoretically include anyone working in game development in Poland, but only has a company commission at CD Projekt Red. A Q&A on the union's website states that the union was formed in response to the company's recent layoffs.

The Q&A states: "We started talking about unionizing after the 2023 wave of layoffs when 9% of Reds (that is roughly 100 people) were let go. This event created a tremendous amount of stress and insecurity, affecting our mental health and leading to the creation of this union in response. Having a union means having more security, transparency, better protection, and a stronger voice in times of crisis."

In an interview with Polish site CD Action (via Polygon), union founders Lev Ki and Paweł Myszka claimed the studio had made great strides in eliminating crunch since the release of Cyberpunk 2077. However, the union seeks to further help workers in the Polish game industry and help freelance workers know the benefits of full time employment, as freelance contracts are apparently prevalent in Poland.

CD Projekt Red provided the following statement to Polygon:

"We have been informed about the intention to form a trade union covering gamedev companies, including our company. We will act in accordance with law and comply with legal obligations that might arise from that situation. At the same [time] it’s worth mentioning that the voice of RED’s team is already represented by the RED Team Representatives (RTR), which is a democratically elected body representing all employees and independent of the management board. We have been working with them for over two years now and we will continue to do so to keep our work environment transparent, safe and healthy."

Avalanche and CD Projekt Red are the latest entries is a long list of unionizing efforts across the industry. Recently workers at Sega in Irvine, California successfully elected to form a union. In other labor action, video game voice actor members of SAG-AFTRA may strike.