Another day, another Activision Blizzard union-busting attempt, it seems. In a nutshell, the company is trying to block the tabulation of a union vote until an appeal on an earlier case can be resolved. Said appeal would allow ABK to expand the union vote to more folks, which is a classic anti-union move for companies to make.
Last month, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) approved Blizzard Albany QA testers’ request to hold a union vote. Activision Blizzard attempted to block this request by suggesting that the vote should be extended to the entire Albany staff rather than just QA folks, which the NLRB rejected.
Now, Activision Blizzard is attempting to stop the tabulation of that same union vote. Per, the company’s argument is that no existing NLRB decision “addresses the appropriate scope of a bargaining unit in a video game studio”.
If you remember the Raven Software union that formed earlier this year, you might disagree, but Blizzard has an answer for that. The company says this case doesn’t count as precedent because it “involved both materially different games and a materially different employer organization”, referencing Blizzard Albany’s supposedly unique working culture.
In the new motion, which you can access here, Activision Blizzard says Blizzard Albany is organized around what it calls “feature groups”, and that these “feature groups” are “far more significant” than the company’s own organizational chart.
Apparently, the NLRB failed to take these groups into account when making its original ruling, and it’s because of these groups that the NLRB should reconsider its decision not to extend the Albany union vote to all Albany employees.
Activision Blizzard also says that Diablo 2 Resurrected and Diablo 4 employees “work exclusively on that title”, including what it calls “Test Analysts” (i.e. QA testers), and that they have their own Slack workspaces. This is another reason ABK wants the vote extended; it’s saying that staffers on Diablo should be treated as a unit, rather than exclusively QA testers on Diablo.
Rather intriguingly, the motion also says “Test Analysts can be collectively considered ‘developers’ even if they do not typically create original content”. One rather suspects that might come back to bite Activision Blizzard in future.
Activision Blizzard’s history of anti-union sentiment
This recent case is just one example of Activision Blizzard’s anti-union sentiment. Just a couple of weeks ago, executive VP Lulu Meservey ran into controversy due to Slack messages she sent, which the Communications Workers of America described as “anti-union propaganda” in a labor complaint.
The Albany union itself has run into roadblocks thrown up by the company before, too. Said union was announced back in July this year, and it wasn’t long before Activision Blizzard was accused of attempting to stifle the union, supposedly spending money on union-busting initiatives and companies in an attempt to halt Albany’s unionization process.
Back in September last year, the Communications Workers of America filed an NLRB complaint against Activision Blizzard, citing alleged labor law violations, and in December that same year, Activision Blizzard made clear its opinion about unions by sending out an email to employees encouraging them to engage in “direct dialogue” with management. Suffice it to say Activision Blizzard isn’t a fan of collective action. I wonder why?
Activision Blizzard’s issues don’t end there, though. The studio has been the subject of a large volume of harassment claims that have come in from employees since the floodgates opened in July last year. The company has engaged in what can best be described as token efforts to address these complaints, with an internal review finding that there is “no evidence” execs at ABK ignored harassment. What a surprise.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens with this latest round of union-busting on Activision Blizzard’s part. In a rather laughable part of the request for a review of the NLRB’s decision, Blizzard says it “deeply respects” its employees’ right to “choose how they are represented”. One rather suspects Activision Blizzard only respects its employees’ right to choose not to be represented by a union, but we’ll have to see what happens next.
We asked the CWA for comment on this story, and secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens had this to say.
Sadly, it’s no surprise that a company that has repeatedly tried to silence its employees, including by hiding reports of sexual violence, would want to muzzle workers’ voices once again by trying to stop them from voting in a union election. Workers have concluded that they need to protect themselves from this abusive employer by joining together into a strong union.
Instead of staying neutral, Activision’s management continues to present the same failing arguments in a desperate attempt to interfere with workers’ legal right to make their own decisions about forming a union and negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. It’s clear the company’s executives feel threatened by workers organizing in New York, Wisconsin and across the country. We are confident in the NLRB’s response to these frivolous requests, and we will continue to push for Activision Blizzard employees’ right to organize without delay.