Workers at Workinman Interactive are unionizing with the backing of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), forging a new path as the first union specifically for dedicated video game workers under IATSE in the United States. Following a supermajority of these workers signing cards indicating their collective desire to join together, IATSE filed a petition for representation election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the union announced Thursday.
Workinman Interactive is a well-established games studio working with clients like Nickelodeon, Disney, and Nintendo, as well as crafting interactive experiences for museums and community spaces. Despite demonstrable supermajority support amongst the companies’ workers management declined to voluntarily recognize their union, so the workers were forced to take their case to the NLRB for a formal election.
This move towards unionization comes in response to industry-wide challenges, including job insecurity, inadequate compensation, and a lack of collective representation. Junior Developer Cori Mori shared, “As proud as I am about the work we’ve done over the past few months, I’m far more proud of my coworkers who have come to support the union. I’m so excited to see what the future holds for us now that we have a chance to have our voices heard and respected as equals.”
Echoing Mori’s sentiments, Developer Joel Shuart added, “We recognized management had gaps that left us, the employees, particularly vulnerable. This kind of communal support instills hope and confidence for the future, and it’s an unrivaled feeling.”
In uniting under IATSE, the workers at Workinman Interactive hope to address and improve the conditions in their workplace and set a precedent for others in the gaming industry. Project Manager Matthew Vimislik believes the union will bring together the diverse range of disciplines within the industry, stating, “Game production is a cacophony of different jobs and disciplines pitted against each other for smaller and smaller pieces of a big pie. I believe IATSE’s experiences representing wide swathes of the entertainment industry gives us the best chance of navigating the various needs of our workers, and create a sense of solidarity for artists, programmers, producers, and engineers.”
The IATSE has been moving decisively to organize video game workers as part of the growing demand for representation across all sectors of the entertainment industry. In June, the union announced its first-ever 2023 Gameworkers.org Rates and Conditions Survey, the results of which will be shared in the next few weeks. Just last week, workers at Gladius Studios across animation, Visual Effects (VFX), and video game classifications voted to unionize with The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839. And finally, IATSE recently made a high-profile announcement that Marvel Studios VFX Workers similarly filed for an unprecedented union election, marking the first time a unit of VFX professionals joined together to demand the same rights and protections as their unionized colleagues in the film industry since VFX was pioneered in the 1970s.
“IATSE was built by workers in the entertainment industry who faced long hours, precarious employment, and pay that didn’t reflect their skills, talents, and dedication. The issues facing video game workers are the very issues this union has fought to address through collective bargaining for 130 years,” said IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb. “Between major IATSE employers expanding into games to create new revenue streams, several IATSE members who have taken their unique professional expertise into this thriving field, and an unprecedented wave of solidarity that’s breaking down old barriers across the entertainment industry, now is the time.”