James Russwurm hopes his team will be one of many in the video game industry.
Rosrum works in the quality assessment business for Ireland-based Words Studios. His team is based in Edmonton, doing contract work for video game giant BioWare, makers of blockbuster franchises. mass effect And the Dragon Age.
He and his 15 colleagues in Edmonton voted unanimously to join a union under the Local 401 Food and Trade Workers Union. Their union would be the first in the toy industry in Canada, and only the third in North America.
In a statement on its website, Words Studios said it accepts the results of the voting and “will continue to strive constantly to be a good employer.”
Talk to Rossum as it happens Guest host Tom Harrington about victory. Here is part of their conversation.
Why did you and your co-workers decide it was time to join a union at Words Studios?
Most of our entry-level workers, so entry-level folks, start at the Alberta minimum wage, which is about $15 an hour.
with The rising costs of rent, food, gas and everything, We’ve had a lot of members pushed against the wall saying, “I can’t really work here anymore or if I want to.”
Plus, we had to go back to the office five days a week. Even with the cost of parking downtown and gas prices And everything, it would have been unlivable for many of our members.
We didn’t want to leave our positions, because working in the video game industry is very much an emotion-driven industry, sort of akin to TV or even radio, where it can be very difficult to break into this sector. And after being forced out of that just because we didn’t get paid enough, we felt that if we got organized we might try to get to a more equitable position with the employer.
We are not against working overtime or putting in extra hours. We just want to make sure that we get fair compensation and are not taken advantage of.– James Rosrum, Video Game Quality Rating Factor
Give me an idea then what kind of hours do you deal with on deadline… what kind of hours do you expect to work and what are the pressures under those circumstances?
Crisis culture is a real thing in the video game industry. For those who aren’t in the know, it’s the idea that when you hit those deadlines, or reach the end of a project, there comes a day when this game needs to hit the market. It was set up with advertisers and retailers and needed to get the work done.
So you end up with what’s called a crisis, where you really have to work relentlessly overtime really well until the moment this game comes out — and sometimes for weeks after that, too, as you keep supporting it after it’s out.
We are not against working overtime or putting in extra hours. We just want to make sure that we get fair compensation and are not taken advantage of.
Were you compensated fairly until you became a union?
My personal view is that we are not fairly compensated for our roles.
Let’s say you worked in another studio and were not a contractor like us. You probably work at a similar capacity, but you’re starting to approach $26 an hour. So the industry average, we get paid pretty big for what it is, even locally.
When you started lobbying for union, how did your fellow employees initially react?
We actually found that most of the team were very open to the idea.
There’s been quite a bit of guild talk now in the gaming industry. and with Raven Studios in the United States also launched its union effortsIt was more on the team’s mind than I first thought. And we were able to secure a lot of support very quickly once we had the conversation in the first place.
You were part of the agitating forces behind the creation of this union. What do you think of your future? Do you think the company will take action against you?
Personally, I don’t know. It felt like the least I could do to get the ball rolling. I see my co-workers, many of whom are some of the brightest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. And I couldn’t really keep working and seeing them really taken advantage of anymore.
For me, it was more than that [that] I want to see them get fair and just treatment from the company…more than I necessarily care about, like my long-term prospects within the industry.
And I hope… that might show other studios too, that they can get out there and join unions too.
That’s a victory for you, but it’s 16 employees. There are tens of thousands in the video game industry who work there. What difference could something like this make in the industry?
We really hope we can lead by example and show that there’s really nothing to be afraid of when it comes to unions.
We were able to get to the other side with a good vote that we think we will be able to get a good contract.
We really want to continue to support anyone who also wants to unite in whatever capacity we can.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. Questions and answers have been modified for length and clarity.