Unionize Red Ventures + GB

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deckard

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After last week’s podcast discussion on the current Activision Blizzard fiasco I got to thinking: if unionization is a significant step toward dealing with and preventing worker abuse, why doesn’t Giant Bomb lead by example and push for unionizing themselves and Red Ventures? All of the points they made about Activision and corporations in general still apply:

- HR is not your friend

- Unionization can help punish abusers and more importantly help PREVENT abuse in the first place

- A union can help empower employees

I’m not trying to point fingers but it does seem a bit disingenuous when the GB crew keeps bringing up unions as a balwark against corporate overreach - but only when it comes to “other” corporations.

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tartyron

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I don’t get disingenuous from that, I think it’s more likely that it’s a tough call to make a union that is only 6-10 people strong, because the company could easily say nope and just shut GB down at no great financial loss. If they were to get all of RV acquisitions, then possibly it would have some teeth, but unionizing typically happens quietly at first to avoid the organizers getting fired before moves can get made.

I think one can absolutely support unions and not be in a position where they can create one. I certainly have been in a ton of my past jobs.

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chaser324

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#3 chaser324  Moderator

You may have not intended for it, but you're bringing strong "yet you live in a society" vibes with this post. Any advocacy for workers should be welcomed.

I'm all for workers organizing, but it's going to be a hell of an uphill struggle for a very small recently acquired group to lead a unionization effort at an established company with 3500+ employees. Red Ventures is also not publicly held, and while workers at private corps can still benefit from organization, the issues are often not as extreme as what you see at publicly held companies that will screw over workers without a thought if it increases shareholder value.

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deckard

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@chaser324: I’m all for unionization too, and I get that RV is a private company. It’s an uphill battle. Maybe the more realistic solution is for someone in the games industry (journalism side or otherwise) to work toward setting up an effective, credible reporting mechanism for these kinds of abuses outside of any one company’s corporate/HR structure. For me it just gets old seeing the same sequence of events over and over:

1) AAA games company has some massive scandal

2) Enthusiast press/ influencers beat the drum of unionization being the ultimate panacea

3) Unionization is hard so the whole thing gets dropped and we move on

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MobiusFun

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*IF* Giantbomb was thinking about unionization, speaking publicly about it or even speaking about it through work email or messaging would be dangerous and potentially cost them their jobs. Ideally, they wouldn't say shit about it until it was done.

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imhungry

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This is a weird topic to discuss on a forum. I feel like if anyone actually thought about it for a few minutes they would figure out that even if GB was to attempt to unionize, internet randos would be the very last people to find out about it. Calling people disingenuous when you have no facts about the situation is pretty...disingenuous?

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Superkenon

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#10  Edited By Superkenon

If being unionized were a pre-requisite to talking about unions, then there would literally be no unions.

Progress on this subject is frustratingly slow, but normalization of the subject is a decent first step. The more people there are discussing the virtues and advantages of unionization, the more those things become common knowledge. One of the biggest things in the way of workers' rights (aside from self-interested corporate machinations) are the misconceptions around unions, and those misconceptions don't go away unless we have more people talking about them in good faith. Encouraging the practice.

Those voices are good and important regardless of their card-carrying status.

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FinalDasa

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Maybe encouraging unionization throughout the industry is the best chance to unionize.

For instance, Kotaku is now a part of a union, and encouraging that to spread over to Polygon, IGN, or Gamespot would give that union more power and give GB, RV, or whomever else a better chance to successfully unionize.

You can't just walk away from your desk and form a union. The US has a lot of anti-union laws, especially in certain states, and even discussing a union can often lead to termination.

It's not as simple as "hey just form a union."

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glik

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The idea of GB's three employees deciding to unionize when half the company just quit, went independent, and is doing fine is hilarious. If they had problems with RV that were so extreme as to form a union, the significantly easier, safer, and more logical thing to do is just leave.

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bacongames

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As someone who would love to see this happen, and I'm with you on the sentiment that it's important to walk the walk, organizing this sort of stuff takes a lot of energy and strategy. And this is on top of all the ways bosses have the power to snuff it out, surveil employees, and drag out union recognition. That said, I was hoping that amidst the other pubs unionizing with WGAE, that GS and GB were able to manage it while they were at CBS.

Given the sort of company that RV has been up till now, they don't seem to have a deep bench of disillusioned journalists and media workers who made it possible to rally at places like Vox, Vice, G/O, etc.

I would love to be proven wrong but I'm glad that GB continues to push for it broadly either way.

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inspectorfowler

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What industry would they be unionizing for? I think at this point “journalist” doesn’t necessarily apply - I’ve always thought of them as “enthusiast press” but they are now branching out into very broad “hub for internet content” territory. Look at the spectrum of things Red Ventures has.

I don’t know everything about unions but typically they are organized to protect employees at a specific - large - employer (large police unions come to mind), or to protect employees in a single industry/field across multiple employers (SAG and UAW come to mind).

Generally people will also want a specific set of grievances before they start shelling over 1-3% or more of their gross salary to a union. I’m not in a union but I’m in a general protective organization and I’m about to switch to a competing org because they’re cheaper - they don’t waste my money on Christmas parties, raffles, and other stuff that only the people who are way into the organization want in the first place.

I dunno. The general GB sentiment seems like it’s been “unions can work for people who need the protection” but I don’t know why they would suddenly demand one from their employer when the remaining employees seem pretty happy there.

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#15  Edited By BrittonPeele

I am by far not an expert on unionization, so take this with a grain of salt, but from what I do know about journalism/newsroom unions that I've seen, managers are deliberately excluded from the organizing effort (for probably obvious reasons).

None of us exactly have access to GB's org chart or anything, but I think that would mean that of the camera-facing GB staffers, only two people would even be eligible to lead such an effort. And that effort would happen primarily behind the scenes with other RV employees for a long time before anybody outside of the company ever heard about it.

So I think I get where you're coming from, OP, but it's not like the managers on the team (which is typically most of the Bombcast crew, especially since Danny isn't on staff), can say, "We're unionized now." That's kind of the opposite of how it works. Yes, they have people above them (probably a lot of people, given how big RV is), but most of what the public sees as Giant Bomb would likely not be the ones to lead a union.

(And all of this is assuming any of them even want to unionize. Not everybody does.)

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cikame

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I mean, rather than a union they've got Jeff right? If they've got issues they can go to Jeff who can take things further, if nothing can be done they can take their popularity and skills elsewhere.
The reason my place of work has a union is because there are a lot of low skilled workers who can be abused with no repercussions, the company doesn't care if they leave since they can be replaced, but they can't leave easily because they need the money, that "trap" is why unions are formed.
It's the same trap that exists for developers at big companies like the aforementioned Blizzard, which is why unions in the games industry sounds like a good idea.

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bigsocrates

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#17 bigsocrates  Online

@cikame: "I have a good boss so I don't need a union" is some management BS. I'm not even saying Jeff is a bad boss, though we actually don't know how good he is (I like Jeff as an in front of camera personality but I have never worked for him), but bosses can be fired (remember Jeff's tenure at Gamespot?) or good bosses can become bad, or someone over Jeff's head could do something rotten. Unions collectively bargain for contractually enforceable rights, some of which are specifically protected by specialized law. A good boss is not a substitution for a union, especially when that boss is not even the boss of the whole company.

@brittonpeele's point about the size of the collective bargaining unit is maybe more important. The minimum size of a collective bargaining unit is generally 3, so depending on whether Jason qualifies as a manager or not the Giant Bomb unit might be too small to unionize. If they combined with Gamespot (which they likely could) they could be large enough, but in a company the size of Red Ventures from a practical perspective it might not work. I don't know how anti-Union Red Ventures actually is, but most companies, especially companies owned at least in part by private equity, are very anti-union and while they cannot legally fire employees for organizing there are lots of ways to do it without being caught, and they can legally just shutter Gamespot and Giant Bomb as a message to the rest of the company should they try to organize. It's hard to be part of a small collective bargaining unit in a huge company, especially when what you're doing isn't essential to their operations or a large part of their revenue.

I am very much pro unionization of basically any workplace, but Giant Bomb's position makes it both difficult to organize effectively and also hard to win meaningful concessions if they should organize, so I understand why they don't want to risk their jobs for what might be moderate benefits.

From a practical perspective developers at Activision/Blizzard have much less to lose and more to gain by organizing.

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mellotronrules

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let me say off the top- i am generally pro-union, as i am in favour of any measure that wrests any amount of power and/or leverage back into the hands of non-owners and non-managers. employers have americans over-a-barrel at almost every juncture- so i'm a fan of anything that helps balance the scales.

THAT SAID- labour and union discussions- particularly in the context of content producers and their audience- are a deeply nuanced and complex affair, so i think a lot gets lost when both the audience and the content producers try to cover the issue. it's good to present it as an option, and to highlight where it really works- but that's about all an external body can do.

one thing to keep in mind re: unions is- the impetus has to come from within the workforce itself- and what worked for one shop might not be compatible with another. until that fire is lit in the workforce writ large- it's as useful as hopes and prayers. here's hoping this scandal is something of a catalyst this go-around.

also worth keeping in mind- unions don't inherently preclude abuse (in some cases they're a source; ask my lawyer buddy who represents public transit employees) but they do provide a viable alternative to dealing with HR. and that can be enough- particularly in this case it seems.

but re: GB- why? they don't do the same work as devs, and they don't appear particularly aggrieved. so if the impetus isn't there, why would they organize?

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whitegreyblack

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So... only the people who are in a union or are actively in the midst of unionizing themselves can voice their opinion and discuss unionization in another industry? That is some weird (and arguably misguided) gatekeeping.