Nov 18, 2021 - Technology

Over 800 Activision Blizzard employees call for Kotick's resignation

DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images

More than 800 Activision Blizzard employees are calling for CEO Bobby Kotick to resign in an open letter published today.

The big picture: Pressure is mounting both inside the company and across the industry for Kotick to step away from his position.

  • "We, the undersigned, no longer have confidence in the leadership of Bobby Kotick as the CEO of Activision Blizzard," the petition reads.
  • "The information that has come to light about his behaviors and practices in the running of our companies runs counter to the culture and integrity we require of our leadership — and directly conflicts with the initiatives started by our peers," the petition continues.
  • ABK Workers Alliance is also calling for supporters to sign a petition of their own.
  • The turmoil is spurring employees to continue their push to unionize, as organizers within the company gather support. At least 3o percent of workers must sign cards in order to hold an election for a union, and one can only be certified with a majority voting in favor.
  • As of December 31, 2020, Activision Blizzard had roughly 9,500 employees.

Catch up fast: On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Kotick was aware of sexual misconduct at the company, despite claims to the contrary. Over 100 Employees staged a walkout, following the report.

  • Xbox and PlayStation heads Phil Spencer and Jim Ryan have sent emails to staff critical of Activision Blizzard leadership, according to Bloomberg. Both companies have reportedly reached out to Activision Blizzard's leadership directly.

Inside the company, multiple sources describe a mood of anger, frustration and exhaustion. "A lot of people don't want to be here," one source told Axios.

  • "We keep getting traumatized every week," said another. "There's something new coming down the pipeline that's not good and our leadership just continues to mishandle everything and mistreat us."
  • Some employees wanted to continue walkouts this week, but say they're unable to do so without the support of a union. "That becomes an official strike," one said. Because of the potential financial ramifications of such a move, "we're not really equipped to go on strike."
  • Employees who still on the fence about unionizing fear for their jobs. "We can't really afford to just say, I'm willing to put my entire job on the line, or be blacklisted from the industry as a whole in order to support the union effort...a lot of us are living paycheck to paycheck."

One Activision Blizzard employee called the WSJ report "a tipping point," adding that morale and faith in the company have been eroded.

  • "It's almost as if they're begging us to unionize," said one Activision Blizzard employee of the company's response to this most recent scandal.

Activision Blizzard has yet to acknowledge the existence of ABK Workers Alliance, the growing collective of employees pushing for better conditions within the company, some employees say.

  • “They play nice with us," said one employee, calling it a union busting tactic by company brass to seem supportive of actions like walkouts, pay employees for days of action and reassure them there won't be retaliation. "They don’t have to do that ...but it's to their benefit to try and put water on the flames.”
  • Other employees cite "wait and see" tactics. "They're always just kind of wait for us to forget about it, and then it blows over and they'll do very little," said one.
  • An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Axios "the company is consistently listening to and engaging with all of its employees on a wide range of important topics in a number of venues, including many group meetings just this week."

Meanwhile, Employees have already accused Activision Blizzard of trying to undermine its efforts by hiring law firm WilmerHale — which is notorious for union busting — in July to reform its internal practices.

  • Despite being a hot topic within the industry for years, no major U.S.-based games company has managed to unionize.

What's next: Employees say they will continue to build support internally for a union.

  • "I don't know if I'd be ready to trust corporate again without a union behind me," one source said. "I think, if they wanted those who were hurt to feel safe again immediately, they could make a public promise to remain neutral and not interfere in any future organizing efforts."
  • "This walkout isn't the end of this," the source said. "It's showing that the employees of Activision-Blizzard can mobilize, that we can organize and coordinate. It's a demonstration. We aren't shutting up."
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