Sega of America workers at the Irvine, California office filed for a union vote with the National Labor Relations Board, workers announced Monday. The union is called the Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega — or AEGIS — and partnered with the Communications Workers of America. Its slogan, “to be this good takes AEGIS,” is a play on an old Sega tagline.
The unit currently includes 144 roles at the Irvine, California headquarters and across departments — marketing, games as a service, localization, product development, and quality assurance. The Sega of America Irvine office, which opened in 2022, houses up to 235 Sega of America employees. AEGIS-CWA is the first industry union at a major company to span multiple departments, something workers at Activision Blizzard attempted at Boston-based Proletariat earlier this year. The video game industry’s unionization push has largely been led by QA workers and indie studios; Tender Claws Human Union was among the first of these studios to span several departments.
Today we, a supermajority of workers at our @SEGA of America Irvine headquarters, are excited to announce that we are unionizing as the Allied Employees Guild Improving SEGA—AEGIS—in partnership with @code_cwa. #UnionizeSEGA pic.twitter.com/lzbwFUZOFH— AEGIS-CWA #UnionizeSEGA (@takesAEGIS) April 24, 2023
“Working for SEGA is a passion for many of us and it’s been so exciting to see that through organizing, we can make this work a sustainable long-term career,” QA lead Mohammad Saman said in a statement. “By creating our union, AEGIS-CWA, we’ll have a say in the decisions that shape our working conditions and ensure the job security and working conditions we deserve. We’re excited to protect what already makes SEGA great, and help build an even stronger company, together.”
Sega of America workers, who work on franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog and Persona, are looking to secure higher base pay for all unit members alongside raises that meet inflation levels, improved benefits, clearly outlined promotion and advancement plans, balanced schedules, and “adequate staffing” to “end patterns of overwork,” workers said.
Sega Sammy, which is the holding company for Sega and Sammy Corporation after the 2004 merger, announced in February that Japan-based employees would see a 30% salary increase “further stabilize employee income and create a more comfortable working environment, as well as to further strengthen its global competitiveness,” according to GamesIndustry.biz. The increase did not extend outside of Japan, and followed a pattern of wages increases from Japanese studios like Nintendo and Capcom.
Two Sega of America workers and union members told The Verge they hadn’t experienced union-busting from management; they’re hoping leadership will voluntarily recognize the union. A date hasn’t yet been set for the union election.
The union announcement is another milestone for the video game industry’s unionization efforts, which kicked off in earnest when workers at the defunct indie studio Vodeo Games announced its union in late 2021. Since then, unions have popped up all across the games industry, spanning video game studios large and small as well, as through tabletop game makers and sellers. Notably, Activision Blizzard houses two QA unions in its Blizzard Albany and Raven Software studios as the company works to push its acquisition by Microsoft through the Federal Trade Commission. Microsoft, for its part, has pledged neutrality toward unions, and from that, ZeniMax Media QA workers voted to unionize, sidestepping the NLRB’s process to vote through authorization cards and an online portal. Should Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition go through, the neutrality deal will apply to all Activision Blizzard studios, too.
Game workers across industries have been historically pushed to their limits through brutal crunch, low pay, and discrimination; it’s been well-documents for years in both lawsuits, on social media, and the press. Workers over the past few years have pushed back on all that, and are looking for a workforce reckoning and a place at the table to negotiate for their working rights. It’s a reflection of a wider movement in the United States as workers take on bosses at major corporations like eBay, Starbucks and Amazon.
Update (April 26): In lieu of a comment, Sega of America representative provided Polygon with an email sent to all Sega of America staff on Wednesday by Sega of America president Ian Curran. Curran wrote that Sega of America is “investigating and considering the options available to the company.” Here’s a full transcript of the email:
We received word yesterday that a petition has been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by various SOA employees seeking union representation. Union matters are new to me and SOA and we are investigating and considering the options available to the company. As I understand it, the petition filing means that the NLRB will conduct a secret ballot election several weeks down the road for employees who are in specific job classifications to be determined by the NLRB. These employees will be voting for or against union representation.
Some of you may support unionization and some not. That is your legal right. No SOA employee will be treated any differently whether they support or do not support unionization. We have a wonderful culture at SOA with a strong commitment to working together as a team. In my mind, it is the SOA employee culture that makes us such a successful company.
We will be updating you regularly so that you’re fully informed, understand what you can expect and what the NLRB process is about. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Human Resources. We want all of your questions answered.
Thank you all for your continued efforts.