The unionizing movement within the world of comics and video games grew larger this week as workers at Seven Seas Manga and Raven Software moved forward with their efforts.
Seven Seas workers announced yesterday that they have formed a union called the United Workers of Seven Seas (UW7S), which is working with Communications Workers of America (CWA) to organize.
In a statement on their website, the UW7S explained that their efforts had begun after the manga boom led to hiring expansion at Seven Seas from 10 to more than 40, with increased workload but without such benefits as vacation, sick days, family leave, health insurance, and retirement benefits otherwise typical of the publishing industry.
“We find ourselves overworked, underpaid, and inadequately supported,” they wrote.
For these reasons, we have formed United Workers of Seven Seas (UW7S). We are invoking our right to organize and administer a vote to form a union. We are working closely with Communications Workers of America (CWA), who have helped organize and represent other workers in the entertainment and publishing industry. We’re eager to produce the best products we can, and the best way to do that is with a living wage, proper hardware and software, and a well-organized digital office. As a union, we seek to negotiate better working conditions for both Seven Seas employees and the many freelancers who make what we do possible.
UW7S released a list of goals including
- Healthcare, paid leave, & pension benefits.
- Paid time off, vacation, & holiday breaks.
- Increased wages & transparent increase structure.
- Reasonable workloads, no more crunch.
- Secure employment status for all.
- Protections & benefits for freelancers.
- Clearly defined job roles & organization chart.
- Training materials & onboarding.
- A robust scheduling & admin department.
- Management training for all managers & supervisors.
- An end to exclusivity & anti-freelance contracts.
- Anti-harassment/discrimination policies & process for submitting grievances.
- Bonuses & vendor gifts.
- Reimbursement for costs.
- Inter-department communication.
- Increase staff for overburdened departments.
Seven Seas is one of the longest running manga publishers in the US, having been founded in 2004 by Jason DeAngelis. In recent years, it has expanded greatly, partly due to the surge in popularity for manga in the US, earlier this month they launched new girls love and boys love lines. They’ve also published such critically acclaimed titles as My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness.
Seven Seas has not made any response to the new union; meanwhile the UW7S posted cute takeoffs on Seven Seas mascots on Twitter. A formal vote to unionize recognized by the NLRB is expected to be the next step.
A group of 28 quality assurance testers at the Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software won their bid for a union Monday afternoon. The workers, who have organized as the Game Workers Alliance, told The Washington Post they hope others in the video game industry follow suit. Eligible workers at Raven Software, which makes Call of Duty titles in Madison, Wis., mailed in ballots to vote in the election this month. The Milwaukee office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counted the ballots via video conference Monday afternoon, with a tally of 19 voting in favor and 3 against. Both parties have until May 31 to file an objection.
If no objection is filed, the results become official on that date, and Raven management must begin bargaining with the union in good faith.
Unionizing in the video game industry could potentially have an even greater effect, as the video game industry is so much larger than the comics industry, and abuse of workers is even more widespread. Raven Software parent company Activision Blizzard is already under fire for a host of allegations regarding discrimination at the company. In addition, yesterday the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) found that they had illegally threatened staff via a strict social media policy that prevented employees from speaking out.
Both the UW7s and the GWA are still beginning steps within the comics publishing and video game spaces. In the comics world, Image Comics employees voted to unionize earlier this year as Comic Book Workers United.
And workers at tabletop game publisher Paizo were voluntarily recognized as a union, United Paizo Workers; one of Paizo’s union organizers even met with the White House a few weeks ago.
Both CBWU and UPW also organized with the help of the CWA. Unionizing efforts are directly underway throughout the video game industry.