Dec 10, 2021 - Technology

Organizers slam Activision Blizzard for “union busting”

Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Activision Blizzard is asking employees to “take time to consider the consequences” of workers’ recent efforts to unionize, a tactic some organizers are calling "union busting."

Driving the news: Chief administrative officer Brian Bulatao sent an internal email on Friday, claiming that employees signing union cards “will have signed over to [the Communications Workers of America] the exclusive right to ‘represent [you]’...that means your ability to negotiate all your own working conditions will be turned over to CWA.”

  • “Achieving our workplace culture aspirations will best occur through active, transparent dialogue between leaders and employees that we can act upon quickly,” Bulatao continues.
  • A Better ABK organizer Jessica Gonzalez told Axios that the company’s “incompetence has been showing and continues to show with this obvious union busting intimidation tactic.”

Why it matters: Activision Blizzard’s message is a direct response to employees’ continued efforts to unionize.

Catch up quick: Employees at Call of Duty: Warzone developer Raven Software walked out earlier this week after a dozen quality assurance contractors were told their contracts would not be renewed.

  • Those employees have not yet returned to work and have instead entered strike territory.
  • One organizer estimates at least 200 people have walked out over Tuesday and Wednesday alone.
  • Organizers have also begun collecting union authorization cards as they work to gather the support needed to form a union.

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Axios that it “supports our employees’ right to express their opinions in a legal, safe, and peaceful manner, without fear of retaliation, and their NLRA rights in general.”

The other side: “It's disappointing to see Activision Blizzard management, at yet another choice point when they could have done the right thing, double down and continue to take the low road,” said CWA National Organizing Director Tom Smith in a statement to Axios.

  • “Union avoidance campaigns waste resources that ABK management could otherwise be using to address the serious concerns at the company such as compensating the victims of sexual harassment and discrimination.”

The big picture: Organizers say leadership rarely, if ever, acknowledges their efforts and asks.

  • “The fact that we're being so routinely ignored, just really speaks to the fact that our leadership doesn't care,” an organizer told Axios. “The only way to make them care is to put public pressure on them — to make them see that caring is profitable.”
  • “We are turning so many great people out of our companies and so many great people out of the industry with these culture issues. That stuff has a huge impact on our ability to make games.”
  • Two organizers at A Better ABK told Axios that Activision Blizzard would no longer compensate workers who walked out past Dec. 8.
  • Organizers announced a strike fund Thursday to support workers in their walkout that’s already raised more $241,000.

“We didn't want to jump straight to unionization,” an organizer told Axios, noting leadership’s lack of action as a driving force.

  • “We had other tools in our kit that we tried leveraging, using walkouts petitions, raising our voices internally.”
  • “The fact that this has gone on for so long, we really did feel the need to make sure that people were secure, especially because... we can't intermittently strike.”

A Better ABK continues to gather the necessary 30 percent support to hold an election to unionize in the wake of leadership’s unwillingness to work with them.

  • An organizer tells Axios that the timing of these events were coincidental to Thursday's annual show, The Game Awards.
  • They credit management’s lack of acknowledgment of A Better ABK’s requests, on top of the Raven walkouts, with the decision to pursue that path.
  • “It was felt by several people that the time was right,” they said.
  • “We've been getting slammed,” they added of the response to signing unions cards so far. “The service has gone down once or twice... because so many people were trying to sign up.”
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