Today, workers at Sega of America’s Irvine, California, office have filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The new union, Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega (AEGIS), is partnered with the Communications Workers of America and consists of a supermajority of 144 employees across Sega’s QA, localization, live service, marketing, and product development departments, making AEGIS the largest video game union in the United States made up of workers across numerous departments.
The Verge had the opportunity to speak with workers ahead of the filing who talked about their experience with Sega, the organizing process, and what it means to be a part of a small but growing unionization force in the video game industry.
“Our workers and our audience deserve games made by people who make a living wage,” read the mission statement announcing the AEGIS union. “In our quest to reclaim our collective power, we have built bridges with fellow workers from across our company in an effort to understand our shared issues, and those that are unique to each department.”
AEGIS the largest video game union in the US made up of different departments. So far, most of the country’s video game unionization efforts have been spearheaded by QA departments. In 2022, the Tender Claws Human Union representing the California based VR-focused studio Tender Claws, became the first multi-department video game studio in the US.
Organizing at Sega has been underway for over a year. According to Emma Geiger, a temp localization editor, remote work and siloed departments made initial efforts difficult.
“[Organizing] started out with making friends actually,” they said. “You’d have a couple people on your team that you’d hang out with after work. And then you’d see somebody in the office who was maybe not on your team, but worked in the same space, and you’d reach out. That sort of bridges a little bit of a gap.”
Torie Winkler, senior community manager, said that a mutual love of the games she and her colleagues work on facilitated the discussions and outreach needed to get different departments on board with their unionization efforts. “Through talking about games with people in the localization department or QA was really how I started to learn about the unionization process,” Winkler said. That communication, she said, has paid off.
“And even as we’ve been having discussions throughout this process, it’s really helped to forge connections with people that I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to talk to just in my day to day working environment,” Winkler said.
Sega of America joins a slowly growing cohort of organizing game studios. Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software kicked off a spate of union drives within the company after its QA team voted to organize in the wake of department layoffs. Another QA department, this time within Activision Blizzard’s Albany studio, similarly voted to unionize late last year. A third Activision Blizzard studio, Proletariat, made public their intent to unionize before withdrawing that petition.
After Microsoft announced its intent to purchase Activision Blizzard, it announced that it would take a neutral stance in any organizing activity (a stark contrast to its potential acquiree, which has been hit with several unfair labor complaints). As a result, when QA workers at Microsoft-owned ZeniMax announced their intention to unionize, their labor organization was immediately recognized.
Neither Winkler nor Geiger said they experienced any anti-union sentiments from management and are hopeful that Sega of America and its Japanese parent company will voluntarily recognize the union.
“I really hope that management recognizes that we’re not doing this out of any sort of antagonism,” Winkler said. “We are doing this because we respect our coworkers and we want to be able to make a sustainable workplace.”
The Verge has reached out to Sega for comment.
Correction April 24th, 1:22 PM: Incorrectly stated that ZeniMax Workers United did not need to hold an election after their union was recognized by Microsoft.
Correction April 24th, 1:50 PM: Incorrectly stated that AEGIS would be the first multi-department video game union in the US instead of the largest. In fact, the indie studio union Tender Claws Human Union is a multi-department union established in June 2022.