Nintendo and labor company hit with labor complaint

An unnamed worker claims that Nintendo, and a company it uses to hire contractors, have violated their legally protected right to organize, according to a new application to the National Labor Relations Board.

Why it’s important: The NLRB complaint, filed on Friday, brings one of gaming’s most successful companies into the increasingly active conversation about workers’ rights in the sector.

The details: The allegations state that Nintendo of America and the global rental company Aston Carter engaged in “concerted activities” and committed “coercive actions” against a worker, which violated their legally protected right to organize.

  • The exact allegations about what happened are unclear because the publicly issued document to the complaint shows broad allegations but does not describe what is said to have happened.
  • But it indicates that the allegations likely included allegations of surveillance, threats, retaliation and either a firing or refusal to hire.
  • Nintendo of America, based in Redmond, Washington, is a division of the Kyoto-based gaming giant. The NLRB complaint was filed in Washington state.

While Nintendo is well knownAston Carter is a less visible player in the gaming industry.

  • Online job postings show that it has recruited customer service and administrative contractors for Nintendo.
  • None of the companies responded to a request for comment before press time.

Between the lines: Trade union efforts in gaming have increased over the past year due to both smoldering dissatisfaction among workers in an intense field and in response to high-profile scandals at major gaming companies.

  • Some employees of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft giant Activision Blizzard announced the start of a union effort in January, and employees of subsidiary Raven Software are currently in a labor dispute with Activision management, which is overseen by the NLRB.

Bottom line: Nintendo has, at least in public, largely avoided any of the scandals that shook the industry. The NLRB complaint could change that.

  • While an investigation will still follow and companies may be cleared, University of California, Berkely professor and work expert Harley Shaiken tells Axios that the situation should not be ignored.
  • “If the NLRB lists these allegations, it’s pretty serious, and their ability to act on it is very real.”

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