A group of 144 workers are forming a union at SEGA’s American headquarters in Irvine, California. SEGA follows in the footsteps of workers at other gaming companies like Microsoft-owned ZeniMax and Activision Blizzard, which both unionized last year.
The gaming giant behind franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog and Total War, SEGA has not yet voluntarily recognized the union or responded to TechCrunch’s request for comment. If SEGA does not recognize the union, the eligible workers can conduct an election through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB); workers expect that this vote would pass, since there are only about 170 eligible workers, and a supermajority has already joined the union.
SEGA’s union stands out from its peers in the gaming industry’s burgeoning labor movement, since it spans across departments. Union members, who organized through the Communications Workers of America (CWA), work in marketing, product design, localization, quality assurance and more.
Em Geiger, a temp editor in localization who has been at SEGA since 2018, thinks that the union was able to unite multiple departments because workers have had the opportunity to connect with their peers across disciplines.
“There are opportunities for different departments to mingle and to get to know one another,” Geiger told TechCrunch, citing examples like all-hands “shout out” meetings, where employees are encouraged to publicly acknowledge their coworkers’ achievements. “This turned from just wanting to better the workplace that we are in to wanting to ensure that our co-workers and friends across departments receive better treatment than what they’re currently getting.”
Geiger says that this unionization effort has been in the works for a long time, and was not a direct response to union efforts at other gaming companies. However, the successful union efforts at other studios have been affirming.
“It certainly did inspire confidence, seeing so many other gaming companies finally asserting their rights to organize, and going public with their efforts,” they said. “We are very lucky to be riding this wave of people who are starting to show more support for the idea of unions in general.”
The union, known as AEGIS (Allied Employees Guild Improving SEGA), is advocating for higher base pay, improved benefits like healthcare, retirement and remote work options, clearer opportunities for advancement, and increased staffing to combat overwork and burnout. The concept of “crunch” — or, working extreme hours to meet a deadline to release a game — is endemic to the gaming industry, spurring this sudden movement of unionization at studios.
Microsoft, which houses many gaming divisions, has a legally-binding labor neutrality agreement, which means that it will not stand in the way of union organizing. This isn’t the norm in the tech sphere. Activision Blizzard, which is expected to become part of Microsoft if its merger isn’t blocked by the government, has been found by the NLRB to have unlawfully retaliated against unionizing workers.
When it comes to SEGA, temp QA tester Winry Ramsey, who has been in this role since August, isn’t quite sure how the company will respond.
“It’s too early to tell on that one,” Ramsey told TechCrunch. “I’m mostly just excited with how much public support we already have.”