ROCHESTER, NY — Workers at Workinman Interactive have voted unanimously in favor of unionizing in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced Wednesday. IATSE applauds the courage and collective determination of these workers, who have paved the way as the first union of dedicated video game workers under IATSE in the United States.
The workers initially filed for this election August 17, and votes were cast by mail from September 12 through September 26. When the final National Labor Relations Board election votes were counted on September 27, there were 20 eligible voters with 16 votes in favor of the union and zero opposed. Matteo collier, Quality Assurance (QA) Tester emphasized the historic nature of the moment, “I believe that today’s unanimous ballot count is a testament to how strong and collected our union has been. And not just here at Workinman, but everyone that has lent their support and encouragement. This is an incredible step forward and I’m excited to move towards the next leg of the journey.”
“It’s very rewarding seeing something you’ve worked so hard for actually come to fruition. I’m so grateful for all the support we’ve received during this time and I look forward to seeing how Workinman will grow in the coming years. I hope this sets a precedent for other studios going through similar situations,” said Junior Developer Cori Mori.
This landmark decision is a response to the widespread challenges within the gaming industry found in IATSE’s 2023 Gameworkers.org Rates and Conditions Survey, including job insecurity, insufficient compensation, extreme hours, and a lack of collective representation. Additionally, the participation and unification of workers across diverse disciplines within Workinman Interactive highlight a shared vision where artists, programmers, producers, and engineers can join together and be empowered by the extensive experience of IATSE in representing a broad spectrum of the behind the scenes entertainment industry workers.
“I feel overwhelmingly happy for this win, and know that I am not alone in that. Each and everyone of my coworkers put their heart in this. They all have done great, working towards getting us the footing we deserve so that we can negotiate with management on even ground. I know there is still work to be done, but I hope this win can inspire others in the games industry. Folks should know that together they have the power to make change and protect what they love about this industry,” said Developer Joel Shuart.
Workinman Interactive, a leading game studio renowned for its collaborations with entities like Nickelodeon, Disney, and Nintendo, has been at the forefront of this historic unionization. The refusal of management to voluntarily recognize the union, despite a demonstrated supermajority support, necessitated a formal election under the NLRB’s supervision.
Diana Thein, Graphic Artist remarked, “this may only be the beginning, but the solidarity I’ve experienced among my coworkers tells me we’ve hit the ground running.” Matthew Vimislik, Project Manager, echoed the feeling, “I have been astounded by the amount of support we’ve received since announcing our Union. We’ve gotten well-wishes from our clients, encouragement from our peers in the industry, and even people in my personal life I never suspected to be pro-labor have been cheering us on! This summer has been amazing for unions and worker’s rights, but I have a feeling this is just the start of the wave.”
IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb agreed, “today’s unanimous vote is not merely a win for Workinman Interactive workers, but it echoes as a powerful beacon for change and unity across the gaming industry. The issues faced by video game workers mirror the challenges the founders of IATSE sought to overcome, and we look forward to addressing longstanding industry issues through collective bargaining in collaboration with the employers.”
IATSE has reported unprecedented demand for unionization across all sectors of the entertainment industry over the summer, and this groundbreaking result by Workinman Interactive workers is part of a broader wave of organizing throughout the business. Earlier this summer, workers at Gladius Studios across animation, Visual Effects (VFX), and video game classifications voted unanimously to unionize with The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839. Earlier this month, Marvel Studios VFX Workers unanimously voted to unionize with IATSE, marking the first time a unit of solely VFX Workers has unionized with IATSE since the field began to see widespread adoption half a century ago.
Following the outcome of the NLRB election in favor of unionizing, the next step for the union is to engage in collective bargaining negotiations with the employer to draft a contract which addresses the needs of the newly-represented workers. Union contracts, also known as collective bargaining agreements (CBA’s), generally outline terms and conditions of employment, including wages, hours, and working conditions. Both the union and the employer are obligated to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement on these terms. As of this writing, no negotiation dates have yet been scheduled.