Amidst the larger unionization drive happening across the game industry in the last year, Nintendo of America (NoA) head Doug Bowser supports workers’ rights to union, butdoesn’t think the company is presently in need of one.
Talking to Inverse, Bowser explained that the developer has received high job satisfaction ratings from employee feedback, and has a retention rate that’s “very high”within the industry. From his perspective, Nintendo’s focus on”how to create the best work culture and environment we possibly can” suggests it wouldn’t benefit froma labor movement.
It’s worth noting that last year QA worker Mackenzie Cliftonwas fired by NoA and staffing partner Aston Carter for allegedly trying to unionize staff. Clifton claimed the companies engaged in union-busting practices from coercive statements and actions (like surveillance)to retaliation and refusal to hire.
Nintendoand Aston Carter were also the subject of a second, separate complaint to the NLRBregarding alleged union-busting behavior. Clifton later settled with the two companies:Aston Carter had to give them back pay, while Nintendo was legally required to inform QA workers of their rights to organize and bargain collectively.
Bowser further told Inverse Nintendo ofAmerica is “always listening to our workers and we want to make sure we have both formal and informal ways of….understanding the needs of our employees and where we can improve.”
“Everyone has the right to form a union,”he continued, “and certainly in the future, wherever it takes us, we’ll respect that.”
A growing trend towards unionization
Unions have mainly been formed at midsize developers, but workers at larger studios such as Raven Software and Sega of America have recently started up their own unions. In the case of the former, its union formed as Activision Blizzard’slongstanding problems were brought to light.
Whether Bowser is right about Nintendo of America having high satisfaction ratings and afocus of “bringing smiles to faces,” that doesn’t render the need fora union moot. Too often, public claimsof a company being full of people happy to be there have been the cover for a number of troubling, sometimes disturbing stories that end up surfacing down the line.
A union wouldn’t fix everything instantly, but it could be a reliable safety net for an industry that’s all too used to instability byoffering underpaid staff (like QA) clearer pathways towardadditional pay, further inclusion with other developers, and otherbenefits.
Bowser’s full interview with Inverse, which covers the lifespan of the Nintendo Switch and its eventual successor, and its approach to game preservation, can be read here.