US Labor organization, AFL-CIO writes an open letter to game developers, urging them to unionize for fair treatment at work

3 min read

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest labour organization in the United States, published an open letter on Kotaku, a video game website and blog, last week. The letter urges the video game industry workers to unionize and voice their support for better treatment within the workplace. The letter is from secretary-treasurer Liz Shuler and this is the first time when AFL-CIO has made a public statement about unionizing game developers.

Shuler talks about the struggles of game developers and the unfair treatment that they go through in terms of work conditions, job instability, and inadequate pay in the letter.  Shuler mentions that although U.S. video game sales reached $43 billion in 2018 ( which is 3.6 times larger than the film industry’s record-breaking box office) and is a “stunning accomplishment” for the game developers, they are still not getting the respect that they deserve.  

“You’ve built new worlds, designed new challenges and ushered in a new era of entertainment. Now it’s time for industry bosses to start treating you with hard-earned dignity and respect”, writes Shuler.

She mentions that game developers often work for outrageous hours in a stressful and toxic work condition, unable to ask for better due to the fear of losing their jobs. She gives an example of developers at Rockstar Games who shared their experiences of  “crunch time” (when the pressure to succeed is extreme) lasting months and sometimes even years to meet the unreal demands from management and deliver a game that made their bosses earn $725 million in its first three days. “They get rich. They get notoriety. They get to be crowned visionaries and regarded as pioneers. What do you get?”, writes Shuler.

According to Shuler, this is a moment for change and change will come when developers come together as a strong union by using their “collective voice” to ask for a “fair share of wealth” that the game developers create every day. She writes that the CEOs and the bosses would treat the developers right only when they stand together and demand it.

“You have the power to demand a stake in your industry and a say in your economic future. Whether we’re mainlining caffeine in Santa Monica, clearing tables in Chicago or mining coal in West Virginia, we deserve to collect nothing less than the full value of our work”, states Shuler.

Public reaction to the news is mostly positive, with some people calling out for a better and stronger alternative than unions:

Check out the complete letter here.

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Natasha Mathur
Tech writer at the Packt Hub. Dreamer, book nerd, lover of scented candles, karaoke, and Gilmore Girls.

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