Activision Blizzard have declined to voluntarily recognise the union forming at Raven Software's QA department, forcing workers to take the long approach. The group calling themselves the Game Workers Alliance will now have to hit up the National Labor Relations Board and run elections, but say they're still confident about unionising because, y'know, they have the support of a supermajority. "Once again, when management is given a choice, they always seem to take the low road," the group said.
Raven QA started organising following layoffs in December, plus the whole companywide sexual harrassment and discrimination mega-scandal. Several dozen workers went on strike for seven weeks, only winding down after a group of QA announced plans to form the Game Workers Alliance. They're forming under the Communication Workers Of America (CWA).
If Activision Blizzard had voluntarily recognised the union, that'd be it, union away! Seemed unlikely they would, given their history of discouraging unionisation. Seeing as they've chosen not to, the Game Workers Alliance instead need to go the longer route through the National Labor Relations Board. They'll need a majority to say "hey, NLRB, let's unionise" then hold elections. If that goes well then hooray, the union will be certified.
The Game Workers Alliance responded in a Twitter thread last night:
"We, the supermajority of workers at Raven QA, are proud to be confidently filing our petition with the NLRB for our union election.
"We are deeply disappointed that Raven Software and Activision Blizzard refused to uplift workers rights by choosing to not voluntarily recognize our union in spite of our supermajority support. This was an opportunity for Activision Blizzard to show a real commitment setting new and improved standards for workers. Instead, Activision Blizzard has chosen to make a rushed restructuring announcement to try and hinder our right to organize...
"Once again, when management is given a choice, they always seem to take the low road.
"However, we are proud to file with the NLRB as we enjoy supermajority support for our union and know that together, we will gain the formal legal recognition we have earned."
One potential problem is that Activision Blizzard have chosen now to start rearranging QA. Polygon report that Activision announced on Monday that they were switching from a standalone QA department to more of an embedded QA model, with testers being placed in specific departments and becoming closer to development teams. This is a legit studio structure which many think has real benefits , but the timing makes some people suspicious.
Several labour experts told the Washington Post that Activision Blizzard could be trying to weaken support for the union. The CWA told the WP that meetings about the changes where "nothing more than a tactic to thwart Raven QA workers who are exercising their right to organise."
Activision Blizzard issued a statement about their choice not to recognise the fledgling union:
"At Activision Blizzard, we deeply respect the rights of all employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union. We carefully reviewed and considered the CWA initial request last week and tried to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have led to an expedited election process. Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement.
"We expect that the union will be moving forward with the filing of a petition to the NLRB for an election. If filed, the company will respond formally to that petition promptly. The most important thing to the company is that each eligible employee has the opportunity to have their voice heard and their individual vote counted, and we think all employees at Raven should have a say in this decision.
"Across the company, we believe that a direct relationship between managers and team members allows us to quickly respond and deliver the strongest results and opportunities for employees. As a result of these direct relationships, we’ve made a number of changes over the past couple years including raising minimum compensation for Raven QA employees by 41%, extending paid time off, expanding access to medical benefits for employees and their significant others, and transitioning more than 60% of temporary Raven QA staff into full-time employees. We look forward to continuing a direct dialogue with our team and working together to make our workplace better."
How nice that they're so concerned about people's ability to effect change! Very caring. Almost certainly not because they fear further collective action over working conditions and business decisions.
With all this, I briefly forgot Microsoft are buying Activision Blizzard for $69 billion (£50b).