PEA Controversy: It’s Time For eSports Players To Unionize

Ever since the creation of the Professional eSports Association (PEA), eSports players have been skeptical to say the least. Yesterday, that skepticism hit a boiling point, as some professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive allege that the PEA is attempting to control when and where the associated eSports teams can play – something the PEA apparently says they're contractually allowed to do.

In an open letter, penned by popular eSports figure Scott "SirScoots" Smith, writing on behalf of 25 CS:GO players from five different eSports teams, these players maintain that the PEA, despite its promises that it would empower eSports players – as was stated in the press release upon their formation – is set up in a way that disenfranchises the players.

Specifically, this letter alleges that the PEA is attempting to keep these CS:GO players from participating in the upcoming EPL tournament, all over a revenue dispute between the PEA and the EPL. The PEA has not formally responded to any of the allegations in this letter. Because of the voting structure (only three player representatives are allowed to vote, out of seven total voting persons), the players are powerless to stop the PEA from disallowing their participation, a decision that is apparently backed up in the players' contracts.

While nothing in SirScoots' letter directly or even indirectly suggests this, it's time to discuss that dirty word that no one likes to say: Union. Hullabaloo about eSports players Unionizing has ebbed and flowed throughout the years, especially as the eSports industry has grown, but now is the time for eSports players to formally unionize.

And I don't say this because I think it's clear that one side is right over the other. What we're being presented with by SirScoots and the 25 players who have signed the letter, while compelling, is still just one side of the story. But what a Union would do is clarify everything.

Unions do what's called a collective bargaining agreement. Every few years, Unions meet with their governing organization and lay out the terms of a contract to which all organizations and players will adhere. If no agreement can be reached, the Union strikes, as is the case with voice actors in video games with SAG/AFTRA's strike.

A collectively bargained agreement makes sure everyone is on the same page. There isn't any surprise clauses in a contract, like the one SirScoots' letter outlined, and players can fight to maintain rights they see fit, such as the ability for eSports players to decided when and where they play.

The fact is that almost every major organization where a governing body takes in a profit from a body of laborers, even those in entertainment, has a union. The NFL, the NHL, MLB, NBA, Film writers, actors, etcetera, all have a Union. And while the primary goal of having a Union is to empower the laboring body, it really has a positive effect no matter who eventually comes out on top, because everyone has clearly stated rights.