BioWare might be the next game studio with unionized workers in its midst

A group of staffers working for a company that supports BioWare, the studio behind hits like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, are taking the first steps toward possible unionization.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada Union, Local No. 401 has applied to become the “certified bargaining agent” for a group of staffers at Keywords Studios, which offers game development support services for things like making art and doing localization and QA testing. On its website, Keywords Studios lists many recognizable video gaming companies as clients, including BioWare owner EA, Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and Sega.

According to a notice from the Alberta Labour Relations Board that was shared on Reddit, the group seeking to organize are includes “all employees employed in development support at the BioWare office in Edmonton.” It’s not clear how many people that might represent, but it is interesting to hear that they work inside BioWare’s flagship office — though it’s not unusual for studios to rely on staffing agencies alongside outsourced labor. We haven’t found the notice elsewhere, but a Board representative confirmed to Kotaku that it was accurate.

The Board will next determine if the application meets certain requirements, including “at least 40 percent support from employees” in the proposed unit. If that’s the case, the unit can hold a secret ballot to have the UFCW represent them in bargaining. The Board and the UFCW haven’t replied to a request for comment from The The Hamden Journal.

Here is the notice that was shared on Reddit.
Image: u/KeywordsUnitedYEG on r/alberta

This is still an early step, but it arrives amid a growing labor movement in gaming as studios like Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard have come under scrutiny for their treatment of workers. Employees at Vodeo Games created the first video game union in North America in December, and just last week, the National Labor Relations Board said that twenty-one QA staffers at Raven Software, an Activision Blizzard-owned studio that works on the Call of Duty series, will be allowed to have a union election.

It’s unclear how BioWare, parent company EA, or Keywords Studios may respond to the organizing efforts, and none immediately responded to requests for comment from The The Hamden Journal or Kotaku.