Nintendo, and a former game tester fired earlier this year, have seemingly reached a settlement in a labor dispute that kicked off widespread allegations about bad working conditions at the Mario maker’s U.S. office. Mackenzie Clifton, who worked on games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, will be paid $25,910 as part of the agreement, while Nintendo will have to post notices in its offices informing employees of their right to unionize.
The settlement agreement was announced on the National Labor Relations Board website on Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained by Kotaku via a Freedom of Information Act request. The $25,910, with interest, will be paid out through Aston Carter, one of the hiring agencies Nintendo uses to staff its testing center and other departments at its Redmond, Washington North American headquarters. Meanwhile, Nintendo will also have to post the following notice outside of the main entrance to the Product Testing Department where games like Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 3 are checked for bugs before release:
The agreement, which still needs to be approved by the NLRB, comes nearly six months after Clifton filed an NLRB charge against Nintendo of America accusing it of union busting. The tester had asked president Doug Bowser a question about unions during an all-hands meeting, and was later fired over a vague tweet about their testing work, Clifton confirmed to Axios in an interview this month.
At the time, Nintendo claimed Clifton’s termination had nothing to do with union activity, and was instead purely over the alleged NDA violation. But current and former employees told Kotaku they weren’t aware of anyone being fired for such a minor infraction as the apparent tweet, which simply stated, “in today’s build someone somewhere must have deleted every other texture in the game bc everything is now red. Just like, pure red. it’s very silly.”
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However, Clifton’s firing and the ensuing NLRB charge did kick off a number of reports of widespread resentment and frustration over working conditions at Nintendo of America that some viewed as exploitative. Rather than hire everyone full-time, Nintendo contracts out much of its customer service and product testing work at rates barely above the local minimum wage of $15.75. Workers are also forced to take two-month breaks at the end of every annual contract and are rarely promoted to full-time. Clifton and others have complained about not having their names show up in the credits for the big releases they work on, and dozens have told Kotaku that they felt like second-class citizens despite the sometimes long hours and supervisory responsibilities they received.
Clifton had previously told Axios that part of their demand for a settlement was that Bowser personally apologize, something Nintendo had rejected. It’s unclear if that will still happen. Despite numerous reports and discussions about issues at Nintendo of America, including a recent report by Kotaku about sexual harassment at the North American headquarters, the company has not yet acknowledged the issues publicly. Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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