After a group consisting of 34 quality assurance testers at Raven Software has voted to unionize earlier in the month, Activision Blizzard (the studio’s parent) has been making moves to undermine that support and make organizing harder. Activision VP for Quality Assurance Chris Arends has sent the clearest message about where executives stand on unionization. It is a spoiler, strongly against.
On Monday morning Arends, an internal, locked channel of Slack, asked six questions about the union. He also provided answers to employees from Activision’s perspective, as shared by Jessica Gonzalez, the union organizer. The message was not received by employees. Each response reduced the benefits of unionization. However, the fourth prompt was the most direct and resolute against the entire organization. It is as follows:
Did you hear that the union would protect employees and give employees job security?
Our ability to create epic entertainment for our customers is what gives us job security at ABK. The union won’t help us produce top-quality games. Additionally, the bargaining process can be slow, reduce flexibility, and can lead to negative publicity. This could impact our ability to create great games.
Fifth answer: Union-driven bargaining is too slow to be effective. This was based on the fact that a unionized company can’t act quickly if it doesn’t agree with the union. Employees were reminded by the final answer that they do not have to vote for the union in an election.
Gonzalez called the post “sad” on Twitter.
Activision’s latest move to stop momentum in Raven’s unionisation is this. Three days after employees declared they had gathered the supermajority required signatures to unionise under Game Workers Alliance, Raven head Brian Raffel announced a reorganization program that breaks down the studio’s QA division and moves employees to different teams.
Communications Workers of America (GWA) said that the shuffle is “nothing but a tactic against Raven QA workers who are exercising our right to organize.”
Activision failed to recognize GWA voluntarily, so they will have to petition the NLRB for a vote, which can take many years. Activision is also pushing for Raven employees to be included in the vote, not just QA workers. This reduces the chance of success.
Activision’s Slack message to employees, in which Arends tries to convince them that unions will make work more difficult and less enjoyable, is similar to Activision’s earlier tactics.
Activision Blizzard currently faces intense scrutiny from many angles. GWA will become the first union to be established at an AAA game studio in North America. This could open the door for other organizations in the industry. Activision Blizzard is currently the subject of multiple investigations and lawsuits into allegations of systemic discrimination against women and harassment at the studio. These incidents are alleged to have been going back decades.
In a $69 billion deal, Microsoft has purchased Activision Blizzard and Raven Software. This will be the biggest acquisition in video game history, and it marks the era for consolidation. Activision informed the SEC one day after the news about the acquisition went live. However, executives had told Raven employees in the months prior to signing union cards that unionization was not underway at their studios.