Activision Blizzard employees form second union ahead of Microsoft deal

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick attends the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 8, 2022 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A group of software testers at Activision Blizzard formed the company’s second union, months before Microsoft finalized its nearly $69 billion acquisition of the video game maker.

Employees of the company’s Blizzard Entertainment division in Albany, New York, are working with the Communications Workers of America to form their own group within the Game Workers Alliance, which was formed by staff elsewhere at Activision.

In a series of tweets under the name GWA Albany, the group said it was seeking competitive compensation with transparency, better benefits, clearer communication processes on workplace issues and better work-life balance. personal. The unit consists of 20 people, according to CWA.

While labor movements have always been rare in the tech industry, where wages and benefits tend to be higher than in other sectors of the economy, they have become more familiar recently. . Small groups of Alphabet and Apple workers took steps to organize, and in April Amazon workers from Staten Island to New York became the first group to vote for unionization in the one of the company’s US facilities.

At Activision, labor demands are higher after cases of alleged sexual misconduct at the company that CEO Bobby Kotick allegedly knew about for years without telling the board. Microsoft first contacted Activision about a possible tie-up the same week the report surfaced, according to a regulatory filing on the deal.

An Activision spokesperson said the company would respond to the Albany union’s petition to the National Labor Relations Board.

“We deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union,” the spokesperson said. “We believe that a direct relationship between the company and its employees is the most productive relationship.”

Union activity at Activision, whose Blizzard divisions produce games such as Diablo, Overwatch and World of Warcraft, dates back to late 2021. Testers at Raven Software, the studio behind the popular Call series of games of Duty, staged a walkout at the company’s Wisconsin headquarters after a reported layoff of contractors. The testers had been warned that their salary would increase, a former worker said on Twitter.

In January, a small group of testers formed a union called the Game Workers Alliance in partnership with the CWA. Two months later, the CWA alleged that an Activision official had “threatened employees not to discuss issues regarding wages, hours and working conditions on Slack.” But workers voted in favor of unionization.

After the vote, Kotick said the company would engage in good faith talks to reach a collective bargaining agreement for Raven testers.

“While initial employment contracts may take some time, we will meet with CWA leaders at the bargaining table and work toward an agreement that supports the success of all of our employees, that further reinforces our commitment to creating the best, more welcoming and inclusive workplaces and improves our ability to deliver world-class games to our players,” Kotick told US employees in a letter last month.

Microsoft has taken a more favorable approach to the organization of work.

Brad Smith, vice president and president of Microsoft, said in a blog post in June that “we are committed to creative and collaborative approaches with unions when employees want to exercise their rights and Microsoft is presented with a proposal. of specific unionization”. He said the company does not believe efforts to prevent employees from forming or joining unions are beneficial.

LOOK: Microsoft says it is open to working with unions

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