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Activision QA supplier Lionbridge accused of retaliatory layoffs in "union busting" move

Entire 160-person team laid off in retaliation, alleges CWA union

A soldier runs across a battlefield in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
Image credit: Activision

US labour union the CWA (Communications Workers of America) have filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against Activision QA supplier Lionbridge Technologies. As Game Developer reports, the CWA allege that Lionbridge fired an entire 160-person team in Idaho in retaliation for union-related activities.

The CWA accuse Lionbridge, who also subcontract labour to Activision owner Microsoft, of making the layoffs "in retaliation for workers engaging in protected organizing activities and protected speech when raising issues regarding their working conditions."

It’s also alleged that, following the firings, Lionbridge offered severance that required the laid-off employees to "agree to overly broad confidentiality terms and to waive rights protected under the National Labor Relations Act." As the CWA point out, the US National Labor Relations Board has ruled this practise to be unlawful.

The laid-off workers were told that their termination occurred because the project they were working on had ended. Despite this, other teams in Mexico and Poland continue to work on the same project. The CWA point out that Lionbridge has what they call a "documented union-busting track record." In 2016, Lionbridge laid of all 16 of its unionised employees.

Posting on X, the CWA quoted former Lionbridge Test Associate Al Bussabarger. "We do much the same work that union-represented Activision QA employees do," reads the quote. "Microsoft should make sure that everyone working on its games is treated with respect in line with its labor principles, including employees of contractors." This post was to add additional context to the original CWA post on the filing against Lionbridge, made by the CODE-CWA, a "Tech, Games, and Digital Industries" group with support from the CWA.

In August of last year, the CODE-CWA announced that there were more than 4,000 tech, game & digital worker members in the CWA. We’ve seen an uptick in staff from large companies forming and voting in favour of unions in the past few years, notably in areas related to QA, including those at CD Projekt, Bioware Edmonton, Blizzard Albany and Zenimax.

The Blizzard Albany workers, notably, faced pushback from Activision, which was shot down by the NLRB. The CWA themselves filed an unfair labour charge against Activision Blizzard in October, 2022. In March of this year, staff at Sega Of America became the first such group to ratify a union contract at a major US studio.

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