Activision Blizzard workers form second union ahead of Microsoft deal

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

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A group of software testers in Activision Blizzard formed the company’s second union a few months before Microsoft The company is expected to close its acquisition of the video game publisher for nearly $69 billion.

Employees at Blizzard Entertainment’s Albany, New York division are working with public relations workers in America to assemble their own group into the Game Workers Alliance, which was formed by employees from other Activision divisions.

In a series of tweets called GWA Albany, the group said it was looking for competitive compensation with transparency, better benefits, clearer processes for communicating about workplace issues, and better work-life balance. According to CWA, the unit consists of 20 people.

While labor movement has historically been a rarity in the tech industry, where pay and benefits tend to be higher than in other sectors of the economy, they have become more common in recent times. Small groups of workers Alphabet as well as Apple took steps to organize, and in April Amazon workers on Staten Island in New York became first group vote for the formation of labor unions at one of the company’s facilities in the United States.

At Activision, the need for labor increased after the cases alleged sexual harassment in a company that CEO Bobby Kotick has reportedly been aware of for years without informing the board of directors. Microsoft first approached Activision about a possible collaboration the same week the report appeared. normative documents about the deal.

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

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

Regarding the allegations against Kotick, a separate spokesman said that based on an independent review, the board found no evidence that any senior executive “ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay incidents of gender-based harassment that occurred and about which have been reported.”

Union activism at Activision, whose Blizzard arm produces games like Diablo, Overwatch and World of Warcraft, began in late 2021. Testers from Raven Software, the studio behind the popular Call of Duty series of games, went on strike at the company’s Wisconsin headquarters after informed dismissal of contractors. Testers were previously told that their salary would increase, one former worker said on Twitter.

By January, a small group of testers formed an alliance called the Game Workers Alliance in partnership with the CWA. Two months later CWA supposed that an Activision manager “threatened employees that they should not discuss matters relating to wages, hours, and working conditions on Slack.” But employees voted in favor of the union.

After the vote, Kotick said the company would begin negotiations in good faith to secure a collective bargaining agreement for Raven testers.

“While it may take some time for the first employment contracts to come to fruition, we will meet CWA leaders at the negotiating table and work towards an agreement that promotes the success of all of our employees, further solidifying our commitment to creating the best, most welcoming and inclusive in the industry. in the workplace and enhances our ability to deliver world-class games for our players,” Kotick told US staff at letter last month.

Microsoft has taken a more accommodating approach to work organization.

Microsoft Vice Chairman and President Brad Smith made the announcement. Blog Post in June that “we are committed to creative and collaborative approaches with unions where employees want to exercise their rights, and Microsoft comes up with a concrete unionization proposal.” He said the company did not see any benefit in efforts to prevent workers from forming or joining unions.

WATCH: Microsoft says it’s open to working with unions