Jan 10, 2023 - Technology

Activision Blizzard studio leaders won't voluntarily recognize union

World of Warcraft. Screenshot: Blizzard Entertainment

The latest group of game developers to try to form a union at an Activision Blizzard studio is hitting a familiar snag.

Driving the news: After workers at Proletariat Inc., a Boston-based game studio that’s part of Activision Blizzard, took steps to organize, studio leaders have declined to voluntarily recognize the union. Instead they are asking the National Labor Relations Board to administer an anonymous vote.

  • Activision Blizzard leadership did the same over the last year in response to union drives at its studios in Wisconsin and New York.

Details: While the workers said in December that they believed 57 of them could form a potential union, Proletariat “currently believes 48 employees are eligible to vote,” according to Activision Blizzard spokesperson Joe Christinat.

  • Neither side has elaborated on the reason for the discrepancy.
  • The NLRB will determine the proper size, based on eligibility.

Between the lines: Disputes over which workers qualify to be part of a union are a common part of labor negotiations.

  • But the push this time for a reduction of the voting group is a twist in the Activision Blizzard union saga.
  • The gaming giant had previously said the two other union attempts, which only involved quality assurance workers at those studios, were too narrow. It argued that all members of the respective studios should get a vote.
  • The 57 Proletariat developers span multiple disciplines, not just QA.

What they’re saying: "We have come to understand that many of our employees prefer to have an anonymous vote," Proletariat leaders said in a company blog post yesterday.

  • “Besides being the fairest option, this also allows employees to get all the information and various points of view. This is an important decision, everyone deserves some time to process it and to better understand its potential impacts.”

The other side: “We don't need help from management. We need — and deserve — respect and neutrality,” the Proletariat workers group and the Communications Workers of America said in a joint statement to Axios.

  • The workers say their bosses are “forcing us through an NLRB election, even though a supermajority of our bargaining unit have signed union cards, and that is not pro-worker.”

The intrigue: The roadblocks to unionization at Activision Blizzard studios contrast with Microsoft’s recent friction-free recognition of hundreds of its ZeniMax Studios game testers to unionize.

  • That process was the byproduct of a labor neutrality pact forged by Microsoft and the CWA to win support for the tech giant’s bid to purchase Activision Blizzard.

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