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Nintendo, former QA worker settle labor dispute

The worker, Mackenzie Clifton, told Axios in September they wanted an apology from president Doug Bowser

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Nintendo logo on swirly background Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon

A former Nintendo of America QA worker who filed a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint against the company in April has reached a settlement with Nintendo of America and Aston Carter, a staffing agency.

Aston Carter will take liability for the NLRB charge and pay the former QA worker $25,910 in back pay, damages, and interest, according to the settlement documents obtained by Polygon. Additionally, Nintendo must post a notice, both in email and on-site at its office, informing its QA workers of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The notice must be posted for 60 consecutive days.

The settlement documents, in full, are available below.

Mackenzie Clifton, the aforementioned QA worker, spoke about the chance of a settlement with Axios in September; they asked for a “letter of apology” from Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser. Nintendo initially offered Clifton the opportunity to speak with HR, they told Axios. On Wednesday, the two sides seemed to reach an agreement. Their bilateral settlement agreement, which means both parties must uphold their end of the deal, was filed Wednesday with the NLRB.

Clifton filed the original charge in April, alleging that Nintendo of America fired them for “support[ing] a labor union,” according to the documents. They also said the firing was an effort to “discourage union activities and/or membership.” Kotaku reported in August that Clifton, a contracted QA worker, asked a question about unionization in a company meetings and was later fired for allegedly violating a non-disclosure agreement. Nintendo told Polygon earlier this year that Clifton was fired for divulging “confidential information,” but Clifton disputed that in an Axios interview, saying they only made a vague tweet that Nintendo overstated.

A second labor charge was filed against Nintendo of America and Aston Carter in August. It alleged that Nintendo fired a worker “engaged in protected concerted activity,” alongside other charges.

The video game industry is seeing an increase in union activity after years of groundwork. Before late 2021, there were no video game unions in North America. Now there are several, in addition to high-profile union organization efforts at Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard. The industry’s union push is being led largely by QA workers and small indie studios.

Update: A Nintendo spokesperson told Polygon it is “thankful” a settlement was reached. The full statement is as follows:

Nintendo is thankful that a resolution was reached in the NLRB matter so that we can continue to focus on ensuring that our working environment remains welcoming and supportive for all our employees and associates. That approach is fundamental to our company values. As part of the public settlement all parties remain obligated not to disclose Nintendo’s confidential business information and trade secrets, which are paramount to our development process and product offerings.

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