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Activision Blizzard discourages employee unionisation efforts

In a union-busting email sent by an exec

Activision Blizzard employees are becoming increasingly frustrated with the company, holding walkouts in the wake of damning reports and layoffs. It's reached a point where ABK employees are organising a formal strike, and there's been talk of unionisation - talk that ActiBlizz would like to stop. In an internal email, chief administrative officer Brian Bulatao discourages staff from signing an agreement with the Communications Workers of America union (CWA) - because "active, transparent dialogue between leaders and employees" is better than unionisation, apparently.

Last week, the ABK Worker's Alliance (a group that was formed after Activision Blizzard were sued by the DFEH for alleged harassment and discrimination) set up a fundraiser to support employees taking part in a work stoppage. This started when Raven Software employees held a walkout to protest almost a third of their QA team being let go, which was followed by further walkouts across the wider company.

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The Worker's Alliance marked this fund as the official initiation of their strike, and a number of employees have spoken out on social media to say they're signing union cards. In a statement to The Washington Post, one anonymous worker said she felt "it's the only option".

"Do we want to work for a company that has a history of not only sexual abuse and protecting abusers but also sporadic layoffs that may hit us at any time, especially as a contract QA worker? Or do I risk losing my job to try and make a change?" She told them.

On Friday, in an internal email sent by Brian Bulato to staff (and shared by former Blizzard dev Jessica Gonzalez on Twitter), it seems the company are trying to warn developers about the scary "consequences" that come with joining a union.

I want to be clear about this: The leadership of Activision Blizzard supports your right, under the National Labor Relations Act, to make your own decision about whether or not to join a union," the email says. As you make this decision for your future, we ask only that you take the time to consider the consequences of your signature on the binding legal document presented to you by CWA."

"Once you sign that document, you will have signed over to the CWA the exclusive right 'to represent [you] for the purposes of collective bargaining concerning all terms and conditions of employment'. That means that your ability to negotiate all of your own working conditions will be turned over to CWA, just as the document says."

He goes on to say that the best way to achieve their "workplace culture aspirations" is through "active, transparent dialogue between leaders and employees". Given reports suggesting harassment allegations were swept aside, and employees saying they allegedly faced retaliation from telling their supervisors about these problems, I'd argue that "transparent dialogue" isn't quite going to cut it.

The CWA have condemned this message too, saying:

"It's disappointing to see Activision Blizzard management, at yet another choice point when they could have done the right thing, double down and continue to take the low road.

"Instead of responding to their workers’ concerns, they've opted to blast the most tired anti-union talking points straight from the union busting script. Union avoidance campaigns waste resources that ABK management could otherwise be using to address serious concerns, such as compensating the victims of sexual harassment.

"We hope management will come to its senses & see that their only viable path forward is to meet the righteous demands from the initial walkout, including ensuring there is a lasting worker voice in all company matters."

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About the Author
Imogen Beckhelling avatar

Imogen Beckhelling

Former News Reporter

Imogen is a lore enthusiast and lover of all the fun shenanigans game communities get up to. She spends too much time playing Overwatch, and not enough time having interests that aren't to do with video games.