A group of Activision Blizzard workers have teamed up with a union to file charges of unfair labour practices, accusing the company of "intimidation and union busting". This comes less than two months after a California state agency sued the company for alleged discrimination, harrassment, and retaliation. The new charges filed with the labour board claim that Actiblizzard have attempted to stop employees from discussing working conditions or working together to improve them, in violation of labour law.
In July, California's Department Of Fair Employment And Housing went after Activision Blizzard with a lawsuit alleging that they treat women unfairly in pay and progression and have "fostered a pervasive 'frat boy' workplace culture" which "is a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination".
The company's initial deflective responses were described in an open letter signed by over a thousand current and former employees as "abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for". Many employees later staged a walkout in protest.
Now a group of employees have joined with the Communications Workers Of America (CWA) union to file charges of unfair labour practices with the USA's National Labor Relations Board.
"We are very inspired by the bravery of ABK workers, and we will always stand shoulder to shoulder with workers fighting harassment, assault, and discrimination," said CWA national organising director Tom Smith in a statement. "Management could have responded with humility and a willingness to take necessary steps to address the horrid conditions some ABK workers have faced. Instead Activision Blizzard's response to righteous worker activity was surveillance, intimidation, and hiring notorious union busters."
The charge alleges that Activision Blizzard are threatening employees who are exercising their Section 7 rights to self-organise, claiming that:
"The employer has threatened employees that they cannot talk about or communicate about wages, hours and working conditions; told employees they cannot communicate with or discuss ongoing investigations of wages, hours and working conditions; maintained an overly broad social media policy; enforced the social media policy against employees who have engaged in protected concerted activity; threatened or disciplined employees on account of protected concerted activity; engaged in surveillance of employees engaged in protected concerted activity and engaged in interrogation of employees about protected concerted activity."
As the National Labor Relations Board explain, Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act guarantees employees "the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection".
ABetterABK, the employee group, tweeted, "If the NLRB rules in our favor, the ruling will be retroactive and we will set a precedent that no worker in the US can be intimidated out of talking about forced arbitration."
Forced arbitration is where employees' contracts require them to waive the right to sue, instead having to settle disputes through a private arbitrator. It's a process known to often favour employers more than employees, and forced arbitration clauses can also divide workers by blocking class action suits. In 2019, over 150 Riot Games employees staged a walkout to protest forced arbitration in the wake of scandal at the League Of Legends studio.
Activision Blizzard are the parent company of Blizzard Entertainment, publishing arm Activision, mobile and social gaming mob King, esports crew Major League Gaming, and assorted studios including Infinity Ward, Treyarch, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, and Toys For Bob. Since the Department Of Fair Employment And Housing brought the suit, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack has left, a senior HR fella is gone too, and others including the director of Diablo 4 have reportedly been let go.