Activision Blizzard workers announce indefinite strike and union campaign

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Enlarge / Striking employees are demanding the reinstatement of Raven Software QA contractors who were laid off last month in a photo released Wednesday.

A group of Activision Blizzard employees calling themselves A better alliance of ABK workers announced that its members are participating in an indefinite strike “until the demands are met and workers’ representation finally has a place within the company”.

“We encourage our peers in the gaming industry to support us in creating lasting change,” the group of workers tweeted Thursday morning.

A Better ABK has helped organize two previous employee walkouts to protest against numerous reports of harassment and gender discrimination in the company (which have resulted in multiple lawsuits and executive departures). But those walkouts were a time-limited effort to send a message that employees were unhappy with the direction of the company’s leadership in general and CEO Bobby Kotick’s leadership in particular.

This week’s strike is an indefinite work stoppage in direct response to the dismissal of 12 quality assurance contractors from the Raven Software subsidiary at the end of last week. The Washington Post reports that at least 200 employees from across the company joined the walkout as of Monday, including “all central Treyarch quality assurance”. These strikers have vowed not to return until “all members of the QA team, including those who were fired on Friday, [are] offered full-time positions, ”as the group puts it.

Activision Blizzard management reportedly told striking employees that they would only be paid until Wednesday, according to the Post. For example, employee organizer Jessica Gonzalez, who announced her imminent departure from the company last month, set up an ABK strike fund to make up for lost wages for strikers and “help with the potential relocation of employees. from Raven Software who were forced to relocate without financial assistance at the insistence of Activision Blizzard. “As of this writing, this fund has raised more than $ 100,000 of its goal of $ 1 million in about 12 time.

In an article on GoFundMe for this strike fund, Gonzalez said the management of Activision Blizzard has “continually abused, dismantled unions and remained apathetic to the wishes of workers.” Gonzalez also specifically calls on the Activision Blizzard board for its “claims to remain confident in Kotick’s inept and unproductive leadership.”

An Activision union?

Along with the strike, A Better ABK is also actively working to create a formal union in distribution of union authorization cards to employees. If a majority of employees sign such cards, it could cause Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognize the newly formed union or force a formal NLRB vote on union representation among all employees.

To help with this recruiting campaign and strike fund, A Better ABK has in partnership with the Communication Workers of America, which represents more than 700,000 employees in a number of industries (including Ars Technica employees through the New York NewsGuild). In September, CWA helped A Better ABK file an unfair labor practice complaint against the company over alleged “coercive tactics in an attempt to prevent its employees from exercising their rights to stand together and demand a a more equitable, sustainable and diverse workplace, ”the union said at the time. “It is their right as workers to organize for a work environment free from abuse, discrimination and sexual harassment, and this right is protected by federal labor law. “

Last year, the CWA partnered with Game Workers Unite to form the Digital Employee Organizing Campaign. It was the largest effort to date to secure union representation from US game developers, who have seen more than their fair share of job insecurity and forced ‘critical time’, between other complaints.

So far, however, this move has yet to lead to major unionized game studios in the United States or even public campaigns for the same until today. This is despite the fact that CODE’s lead organizer Emma Kinema told Ars almost two years ago that the CWA “has helped organize game workers … in a few companies that we don’t discuss. [publicly] currently ”and that the effort“ went beyond any previous effort in the North American region ”.

This whole story makes A Better ABK’s work stoppage and the now public fight for union representation a potential turning point in the industry. “There is still a long way to go, but we want to help our colleagues at ABK to finally have a real voice in how our businesses are run, because over the past few months and years we have seen our leaders continue to ignore the needs of its employees, ”Blizzard Senior UI Engineer and A Better ABK organizer Valentine Powell wrote on Twitter, “We exhausted as many avenues as we could before we turned to organizing.”


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