The Game Developers Conference in San Francisco (more commonly known as GDC) is one of the highlights of the game industry calendar. An annual event drawing game developers of all stripes from around the globe, it is seen as one of the premier places for developers to network, companies to show off new tech, CEOs to mingle and business deals to be made. Yet the big discussion animating conference goers at this year's GDC was something very different. Namely the unionisation of the games industry.
I've not got much experience of organising, and I work in an industry where it's rare for people to be unionised (IT). But I did win some small victories at my last workplace (mostly thanks to SolFed's workplace organiser training) and like they say, the best way to learn is by trying! This is a report on two of those victories - blocking an attempt to give us unpaid overtime, and improving health and safety. Things were easier because we were all on permanent contracts and couldn't be replaced quickly, but harder because no-one else had much knowledge of unions or organising and because we worked in a small open-plan office where it was hard to talk without the boss overhearing.
A member of the SolFed Tech & Digital workers network recounts the building of a collective identity in their workplace, pushing a collective grievance and building on workplace victories.
I was sat at home during the christmas holidays when I recieved an email from my line manager from work. The email said that me and all of the my fellow workers in the department were to get a significant payrise, backdated to November. 'Congratulations!' said the email.
I was overjoyed. Not just because of the extra money, but because I knew full well it hadn't been given to us by the company out of the goodness of our executives' hearts, but due to a long term campaign of collective action and pressure from all of the workers in my department.
The Solidarity Federation's Tech & Digital Workers' network will be having its first meeting in late Oct 2012, in London.
We are very keen to make contact with other workers in technological or digital industries who are interested in helping workers get organised. We currently have members working in systems engineering, web development, games development, electronics and research. If you are interested in getting involved with the network, then get in touch via the 'contact' section of the SF website.
Auto, a games industry worker and SolFed member, writes about the horrific working conditions of those at the other end of his industry's supply chain; workers in the infamous factories of Foxconn. He argues that despite being halfway around the world, we're not so different after all...
Last month I wrote an article about crunch time in the games industry; the large amounts of unpaid overtime that have become a common feature of the game development cycle. However, us tech workers in the west are simply the thin end of the wedge. If you want to see true horrors of exploitation, simply spin the globe and look at to the east. To China, Taiwan and all the other new darlings of the manufacturing industry.