July 21, 2022: -A group of software testers at Activision Blizzard have created the company’s next union in the months before Microsoft is anticipated to close its nearly $69 billion acquisition of the video game publisher.
Employees at the company’s Blizzard Entertainment division in Albany, New York, are operating with the Communications Workers of America to assemble their group in the Game Workers Alliance, which was formed by staffers elsewhere at Activision.
In a series of tweets under the name GWA Albany, the group’s striving for competitive compensation with transparency, better benefits, clearer processes for communication regarding workplace issues, and improved work-life balance. The unit consists of 20 people, according to CWA.
While labor movements have historically been rare in the technology industry, where pay and benefits tend to be stronger than other parts of the economy, they’ve become more familiar recently. Small groups of workers at Alphabet and Apple have taken steps to organize. In April, Amazon workers on New York’s Staten Island became the first group to vote in favor of unionizing at one of the company’s U.S. facilities.
At Activision, the labor demands come with greater heft after instances of alleged sexual misconduct at the company that CEO Bobby Kotick reportedly knew of for years without informing the board. According to a regulatory filing about the deal, Microsoft first reached out to Activision about a possible tie-up the same week that the report surfaced.
A spokesperson of Activision said the company would respond to the Albany union’s petition to the National Labor Relations Board.
“We deeply respect the rights of all employees under the law to make their own decisions regarding whether or not to join a union,” the spokesperson said. “We believe a direct relationship between the company and its employees is the most productive relationship.”
Regarding the allegations against Kotick, a separate spokesperson said that, based on an external review, the board found no evidence that any senior executives “ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of gender harassment that occurred and were reported.”
The union activity at Activision, whose Blizzard divisions produce games including Diablo, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft, dates to late 2021. Testers at Raven Software, the studio behind the famous Call of Duty series of games, held a walkout at the company’s headquarters in Wisconsin after a reported layoff of contractors. The testers had previously been told their pay would increase, one former worker said on Twitter.