News & Commentary

July 11, 2023

Iman Masmoudi

Iman Masmoudi is a student at Harvard Law School.

The first multi-departmental video game union forms at Sega, divisions within the Amazon Labor Union come to light in a new lawsuit seeking to compel internal union elections, and unionizing in Los Angeles gets a full write-up.

Employees at Sega of America, the North American branch of the video game company Sega, have voted to form the first multi-departmental video game union in the United States by a vote of 91-26. The workers, based in California, including various departments such as Brand Marketing and Quality Assurance, have unionized as the Allied Employees Guild Improving SEGA (AEGIS-CWA) with the Communications Workers of America. This move reflects a growing trend in the gaming industry, with other companies like Microsoft’s Zenimax studios and Activision-Blizzard also seeing unionization efforts. The workers at Sega hope to improve their working conditions and job security through their newly formed union, and most importantly, they hope to “have a say” in their workplace.

A dissident group within the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), the certified union representing Amazon employees, has filed a complaint in federal court to force the union to hold a leadership election. The dissident group, known as the ALU Democratic Reform Caucus, argues that the union and its president, Christian Smalls, illegally refuse to hold officer elections. The complaint seeks a court order to schedule an election for the union’s top officers by August 30 and to appoint a neutral monitor to oversee the process. The split within the union reflects growing internal divisions and may undermine its ability to pressure Amazon and weaken the broader labor movement’s momentum.

Christian Smalls, president of the ALU, dismissed the complaint as baseless, stating that it lacks facts or merit. The Reform Caucus’ proposal for prompt elections was rejected by the union’s leadership, leading to the legal complaint. The Caucus claims that the union’s new constitution, presented to the membership in December 2022, postponed elections until after the union ratifies a contract with Amazon. They argue that prompt elections are necessary to prevent the union from becoming what Amazon warned workers it would become—a business that takes away workers’ voices. The lawsuit reflects the ongoing tensions and disagreements within the ALU regarding leadership and strategy, and the broader challenges of union democracy and worker solidarity.

The Washington Post reported yesterday on the landscape of workers organizing in Los Angeles, including hotel employees, TV writers, and potentially actors, who are engaging in strikes and labor actions for higher pay and improved working conditions amid soaring housing costs and post-pandemic corporate profits. The labor movement in the United States has been losing strength for decades, but these recent strikes signal a potential critical moment for organized labor. The ongoing labor disputes, including the fight to unionize Amazon, are being closely watched to gauge the strength of organized labor in the country’s stratified economy.

Workers are demanding fair treatment and higher wages, given the exorbitant housing costs in Los Angeles. Hotel workers represented by Unite Here Local 11 are seeking immediate pay raises, while TV writers are on strike to maintain fair pay and establish industry norms. The Writers Guild of America strike, ongoing since May, has gained support from prominent actors, who may also go on strike. Hotel owners and entertainment executives have defended their positions, accusing union members of making unfair demands during a time of rapid change and economic uncertainty. However, workers argue that they deserve fair compensation, given the high cost of living in Los Angeles. These labor actions indicate a moment for workers to gain transformative contracts and address wage suppression.

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