• The union says many tenured workers lack the benefits they deserve
  • Employees want higher base pay and adequate staffing to ease overwork
  • If recognized, it will become one of the biggest multi-department video game unions in the U.S.

More than 140 workers at SEGA of America's Irvine, California, headquarters have voted to form a union, citing a "lack of control" regarding working conditions at the facility. The decision follows in the footsteps of employees at other gaming companies such as Activision Blizzard and ZeniMax.

The union, Allied Employees Guild Improving SEGA (AEGIS), formed under the Communications Workers of America (CWA) announced Monday its goal was to secure "a future where we are empowered to advocate for ourselves, and for our colleagues."

The union said nearly a third of the gaming company's tenured workers lack full-time status, proper training, paid time off and even bereavement leave despite their dedication to the company for years.

The members, which consists of a supermajority of 144 people, want company leadership to voluntarily recognize their union "without delay, and committing to a policy of neutrality that holds to their stated code of conduct 'to respect our employees' right to organize for labor-management consultation.'"

The union wants higher base pay "for all," improved and stable benefits for employees, increased and clearer opportunities for career advancement, balanced workloads and additional staffing to "end patterns of overwork."

The members are from various departments such as product development, quality analysis, live service, localization and marketing.

Emma Geiger, a SEGA temp editor in localization, said she believes the latest move will unite multiple departments due to peer connection initiatives such as "shout out" meetings, where workers are encouraged to publicly recognize the achievements of their colleagues.

"This turned from just wanting to better the workplace that we are in to wanting to ensure that our co-workers and friends across departments receive better treatment than what they're currently getting," Geiger told TechCrunch on Monday.

He further revealed the unionization drive at SEGA has been going on for a long time and it began even before employees at other gaming companies decided to organize. However, the success at other gaming studios "certainly did inspire confidence" in SEGA employees.

"We're excited to protect what already makes Sega great, and help build an even stronger company, together," said Mohammad Saman, QA lead and a union member, reported Engadget.

Torie Winkler, senior community manager at SEGA, told The Verge that they did not face any anti-union action from the management so far, adding she was hopeful that leadership recognizes the union's goal of creating "a sustainable workplace."

If AEGIS-CWA successfully gets recognition from SEGA, the union could become one of the biggest multi-department video game union in the United States, The Verge reported. The first multi-department union efforts in the industry came from employees at the indie studio Tender Claws. But they are yet to get approval from the management.

SEGA's decision to organize came after QA testers at Activision Blizzard's Raven Software voted to unionize in May last year, which was followed by similar moves from testers at BioWare and Bethesda. Microsoft is the only company in the gaming industry so far to recognize employees' unionization efforts, Kotaku reported.

Efforts of workers at another studio owned by Activision Blizzard, Boston-based Proletariat, fell through earlier this year after they withdrew their petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to vote for unionization.

A CWA representative said at the time the management's "confrontational tactics" and meetings held with Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak "demoralized and disempowered the group," forcing them to withdraw the petition, Polygon reported.

SEGA, the parent company of SEGA of America, is the publisher of the popular games "Sonic the Hedgehog," "Phantasy Star IV," "Beyond Oasis," "Mortal Kombat 2" and "Gunstar Heroes." The company was founded in 1960 in Hawaii and its main headquarters is in Tokyo.

A model of Sega character 'Sonic the Hedgehog' is pictured at its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, February 16, 2022.
A model of SEGA character 'Sonic the Hedgehog' is pictured at its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, February 16, 2022. Reuters / KIM KYUNG-HOON