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Activision Blizzard hit with another unfair labour charge from CWA

Instigated by a statement sent to 18,000 employees

The Activision Blizzard King Workers Alliance have teamed up with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union to file another charge of unfair labour practices against Activision Blizzard. The filing is in response to a message described as anti-union that was sent by Activision Blizzard’s communications executive, Lulu Meservey, to 18,000 employees last week. The CWA had previously filed a charge of unfair labour practices in September 2021, accusing the company of violating US labour laws and stopping employees from discussing working conditions. Last year’s complaint was closed just a month later.

Meservey sent the message ahead of the Blizzard-Albany QA staff’s union election on October 27th. In her message, Meservey states the company “fully supports the employees’ right to choose how they want to be represented.” But, she continues, “we disagree that a handful of employees should get to decide for everyone else on the future of the entire Albany-based Diablo team.”

Meservey went on to say that "We think a direct dialogue between company and employees is the most productive route," and that "We feel collective bargaining is comparatively slow," pointing to Raven’s QA testers who successfully unionised in April: “There have only been three bargaining sessions since the union was certified almost 6 months ago.”

Her call for a "direct dialogue between company and employees" drew criticism since her Slack message was set to read-only - meaning employees could not respond to her statement. Elsewhere in the message, Meservey cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report that “non-union employees generally get larger pay raises than union-represented groups.”

In their announcement, the CWA claimed Activision Blizzard were “disparaging the union, making threats to withhold raises and benefit improvements from workers who joined the union, and giving workers an impression that their union affiliation and/or support was under surveillance.”

“To be clear, a one way channel where management force feeds workers information does not create dialogue between workers & higher ups. The only vehicle that can give workers a legally-protected seat at the table & a voice on the job is a union”, said Sara Steffans, the secretary-treasurer of the CWA.

Meservey’s statement is in line with Activision Blizzard’s actions in April, as they converted temporary QA staff in the US to full-time employees, giving them a pay boost and benefits package. However, Raven’s QA staff, who were unionising at the time, were left out of this initiative. Activision stated this was due to “legal obligations” under labour law. The Raven crew disagreed, claiming it was the company’s attempt to "divide workers & undermine our right to unionize.” Raven’s QA staff had previously criticised the company for retaining the law firm Reedsmith, which they say is “well known for advising clients on union-busting tactics.”

Widespread discussions over working conditions at Activision Blizzard were initiated last year when the State of California sued the company for a culture of sexual harrassment and discrimination.

This situation continues to unfold while Microsoft attempts to acquire Activision Blizzard. The CWA supports Microsoft’s ongoing acquisition, as the two organisations announced a labour neutrality agreement in July, which will come into effect “60 days after Microsoft’s acquisition closes.” This is all hypothetical still, though, as UK regulators are currently investigating the deal over "competition concerns".

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Kaan Serin

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Kaan is currently an English and Film student who spends more time thinking about food than his degree. Also, trying to cut down on sharing unprompted video game trivia.

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