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Sega of America workers win union vote

Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega win by overwhelming majority

Sonic the Hedgehog runs toward the horizon of Starfall Islands in artwork from Sonic Frontiers. Image: Sonic Team/Sega
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Sega of America workers voted “yes” to officially form a union. The National Labor Relations Board counted the group’s mailed-in votes on Monday, with the Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega, or AEGIS, winning the vote.

One hundred seventeen votes were counted, 91 votes for the union and 26 votes against. (Several votes were challenged and not counted.) The unit will include more than 200 roles at Sega of America’s Irvine, California office, Communications Workers of America said in a news release.

The union spans several different departments: marketing, games as a service, localization, product development, and quality assurance. The Irvine office, which opened in 2022, houses up to 235 workers. With this win, AEGIS-CWA is the first video game industry union at a major company that spans multiple departments. Boston-based Activision Blizzard studio Proletariat attempted this earlier in 2023, but ultimately pulled its union petition. Next, the NLRB will have to certify the union before moving into bargaining.

“We are overjoyed to celebrate our union election win as members of AEGIS-CWA,” Sega of America translator Ángel Gómez said in a statement to press. “From the start of this campaign, it has been clear that we all care deeply about our work at SEGA. Now, through our union, we’ll be able to protect the parts of our jobs we love, and strengthen the benefits, pay, and job stability available to all workers. Together we can build an even better SEGA. We hope our victory today is an inspiration to other workers across the gaming industry. Together, we can raise standards for all workers across the industry.”

The video game industry’s union push has largely been spearheaded by QA workers and indie studios, with indie Tender Claws Human Union leading the way with its department-spanning union.

Sega itself is headquartered in Japan, but it has several localized offices across the globe. It’s best known for its arcade and video games in franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog, Yakuza, and Persona. Sega Sammy, the holding company for Sega and Sammy Corporation, gave its Japan-based employees a 30% salary increase in February, but it did not extend outside of Japan. Sega of America union members are looking to secure higher base pay, raises that meet inflation levels, improved benefits, and increased staffing to end overwork at the company.

With this win, the video game industry’s unionization efforts have reached another milestone; the efforts kicked off officially in 2021 when defunct indie studio Vodeo Games announced its union. Unions have continued to pop up across the industry, at studios both big and small, in the years that have followed. The largest so far is the ZeniMax Media QA union that voted yes in January. Activision Blizzard workers, whose company continues to be the subject of an acquisition effort by Microsoft, have so far formed two unions under the company.

Today’s win by the workers at Sega of America is part of a larger movement of game workers pushing back on industry norms that promote brutal overwork, discrimination, and unequal pay. Just last week, a former employee at Pokémon Go developer Niantic sued the company for alleged culture of gender discrimination and sexism that devalued women. With the seat at the negotiating table which a union provides, workers are looking to have a say in workplace operations and hold leadership accountable for issues like those alleged at Sega and elsewhere.

Update (July 11): Following the vote, Sega of America sent an email to to staff acknowledging the result of the election. A Sega of America representative also sent this email to Polygon. The full text is reprinted below:

Today, we received tentative results of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) union election. Of the approximate 212 eligible voters, 139 employees participated in the election. The majority of employees who participated in the election voted “Yes” and opted for unionization with the Communication Workers of America. The official outcome of the election is not yet certified by the NLRB. Any party may file objections to the election within 7 days of the vote count.

Throughout this process, we have maintained a high level of respect for our employees’ rights. We have provided factual information and answered your questions regarding what changes with a union. Our employees are a critical component of our success. While we believe that a direct relationship promotes a supportive environment, responsiveness, and a shared commitment, we respect our employees’ rights and maintain our legal commitment to the NLRB process.

We will update you when we have more information about next steps.

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