“Think about the consequences” of unionization: NPR

An Activision Blizzard booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

Jae C. Hong / AP

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Jae C. Hong / AP

An Activision Blizzard booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

Jae C. Hong / AP

Activision Blizzard faces criticism for discouraging unionization after the video game giant wrote an email to employees imploring them to “take the time to consider the consequences” to move forward with a unionization effort.

Brian Bulatao, a former Trump administration official who is now the executive director of Activision Blizzard, emailed the company’s 9,500 employees on Friday regarding a campaign by the Communications Workers of America to organize the workplace.

Union push is seen as the latest challenge for business leaders

The company behind video games like “World of Warcraft”, “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush” has been in crisis since July, when the California Civil Rights Agency sued an alleged work culture. of “frat boy” where the sexual harassment would take place. crawling. The lawsuit also claimed that women are paid less than their male counterparts.

In his company-wide note, Bulatao said forming a union is not the most productive way to reshape workplace culture.

“We only ask that you take the time to consider the consequences of your signing on the binding legal document presented to you by the CWA,” Bulatao wrote in the internal email, which was reviewed by NPR. “The best achievement of our corporate culture aspirations requires an active and transparent dialogue between managers and employees on which we can act quickly. “

Union experts say the intent of the email was clear

For union organizers, the message represented an attempt to push back the union organization through intimidation.

“Instead of addressing the concerns of their workers, they chose to detonate the most tired anti-union talking points straight from the anti-union script,” said Tom Smith, national director of the CWA organization.

Catherine Fisk, an employment law expert at the University of California at Berkeley, told NPR the company’s post appears to distinguish between an illegal threat and legal persuasion – but she said the conclusion was clear .

“The goal is to appear both threatening (considering the consequences) and friendly (keeping our ability to have a transparent dialogue), while avoiding making a clear threat,” Fisk said. “Threatening employees is illegal, but warning them is not.

Activision Blizzard did not return a request for comment.

Employees have increasingly taken joint actions

In recent weeks, Activision Blizzard employees have staged walkouts against the dismissal of contract workers and the revelation that CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of the accusations of sexual misconduct at the company but chose not to act. for years. Some shareholders in the $ 45 billion company have called on Kotick to step down.

In addition to the ongoing legal battle with California regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission has also launched an investigation into the company.

Unions are virtually non-existent in the video game industry, so the CWA’s campaign to get workers to sign union cards is an important, albeit preliminary, step towards organizing. Typically, for the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election, 30% of workers must sign a petition or union cards, indicating that they want a union to represent them.

In his email to employees, Bulatao wrote – in bold print – that Activision Blizzard management supports the right of employees to make their own decisions about “whether or not to join a union.”

Organizer says she faced ‘internal pushback’

Jessica Gonzalez, senior test analyst at Activision Blizzard who helps run Better ABK, a Twitter account that supports the unionization of workers at the company, said she believed company management would step up efforts to quench the union push.

“When I started to organize myself there was a lot of internal reaction,” Gonzalez told NPR. “I was getting vilified. It took a toll on my mental health,” she said.

Gonzalez resigned from the company on Friday, but said her work in support of union efforts at the company would continue. She recently set up a GoFundMe to raise funds for colleagues engaged in a work stoppage demanding the resignation of Kotick and other senior executives.

“I care enough about the people I work with. These are the people who make creepy games so great. We should nurture that passion and not tap into that passion,” she said. “Culture comes from the top down, but Bobby Kotick has had 30 years to fix the culture. It hasn’t happened yet.”

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