Nearly two months after Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick announced that the company would finally begin negotiating its first union contract with the Game Workers Alliance at Raven SoftwareBlizzard Albany staff, currently working on Diablo IV, say the publisher is back to trying to break up the unions. They accuse Activision Blizzard of rehiring law firm Reed Smith to undermine their own organizing effort rather than voluntarily recognize the company’s second union.
“Instead of following Microsoft’s lead and committing to a labor neutrality agreement, Activision has made a clear and conscious decision to strip us of our basic labor rights while once again spending hundreds of thousand dollars for a union-busting company,” the Albany Game Workers Alliance, which organizes for things like better pay, health care, and work-life balance, among others, wrote in a press release Wednesday. . The group says Activision Blizzard is once again using Reed Smith, an organization that offers “union avoidancein a “futile effort” to “delay recognition.” As the workers say, Reed Smith intends to urge the National Labor Relations Board to deny the right to unionize to the individual QA group.
When asked for a comment, the Call of Duty editor didn’t say why he rehired the Reed Smith law firm or how much he was paying, but he did confirm he would push again for a studio-wide vote on unionization. “Given the significant impact this change could have on approximately 150 people at Albany (formerly Vicarious Visions), we believe that every Albany employee who works on Diablo should have a say in this decision; it should not be done by less than 15% of employees,” company spokesman Rich George wrote in an emailed statement.
The Albany site-based team is an integrated group that focuses on the same game franchise and works on related game features and functionality. These employees share important commonalities in their work and maintaining cohesion throughout the complex game development and production process is essential.
This is the same playbook the company rolled out last time when Raven Software first sought to unionize. First he integrated QA staff directly into other disciplines within the larger studio and later argued that for this and other reasons the whole studio should vote for a union rather than just those in the AQ who already overwhelmingly supported him. In the end, the NLRB sided with the workers, but still delayed the process for several months.
Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard has worked with Reed Smith, an international company that boasted on its website at the time to help companies avoid and fight unionisation. He even kept a PowerPoint presentation on its website which included slides on how unions sought to exploit lazy workers and strategies to persuade workers that unions were a bad idea. This presentation has since been deleted.
Activision Blizzard’s renewed fight against unionization comes just two months after Microsoft, currently set to acquire it for $69 billion, announced that he would remain “neutral” on union efforts moving forward. As part of a campaign to gain regulatory approval for the biggest tech acquisition in history, it looked like it could also signal a new playbook for Activision. Apparently not. The deal is expected to close before June 2023.