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Blizzard vet and Undead Labs founder urges employees, industry to unionize

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Jeff Strain, a longtime industry veteran and regular company founder has penned a letter urging the game development world and his own employees to unionize.

Strain’s letter comes after a week of explosive headlines driven by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for allegedly fostering a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination.

Strain, a former Blizzard employee who worked on Diablo II, wrote in a letter shared by IGN that none of the allegations surprised him, and he has now become convinced that unionization is the solution to these problems.

“We need unionization,” he writes. “Unions were started in this country to protect workers from abusive, cruel, abhorrent, unacceptable and illegal treatment from companies. That’s their entire purpose.”

“If this week does not show us that our industry colleagues — even the most entry-level QA tester — need true support and baseline protection, I can’t imagine how much worse it will have to get.”

Strain’s letter also details some of his own experiences at Blizzard that drove him to leave and co-found ArenaNet. His letter also is notable because he says it’s directly aimed at employees of his new (unnamed) company.

While the history of unionization does include some instances of support from management, this is one of the few cases in video games where we’ve seen a company founder urge employees to unionize. In our conversations with leaders like Double Fine’s Tim Schafer and Insomniac Games’ Ted Price, they’ve cautiously deferred the notion while talking about wanting to be supportive of employees’ needs.

Strain has apparently decided to go a step further. “I’m highly familiar with the financial, legal, contractual, and organizational aspects of game development. I also know that I have nothing to fear from unionization, nor does any company that pays employees fairly and equitably, provides quality health insurance, models respect and civility for female, POC, LGBTQ+ employees, and supports a healthy, whole life,” he states.

“It seems simple, but we clearly need help with it. The giants of this industry have shown us this week that we cannot trust them to moderate and manage the wealth and power that players and fans have given them.”

You can find Strain’s full letter over on IGN.

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