With the help of a major union, Activision Blizzard employees have filed a complaint against the company with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that the game development and publishing giant has intimidated, surveilled, and interrogated workers to discourage them from discussing labor conditions.
The employees, who are working under the “A Better ABK” banner (referring to Activision Blizzard King), and the CWA allege that, in the last six months, Activision Blizzard has:
- “Repeatedly engaged in unlawful conduct by threatening employees”
- “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.”
“Protected concerted activity” refers to, for example, employees discussing ways to improve their workplace. The CWA also acknowledged that Activision Blizzard hired WilmerHale, a law firm known for anti-union efforts with Amazon and other companies.
In partnership with CODE-CWA, we’ve filed an unfair labor practice suit with the National Labor Relations Board: https://t.co/meGNFYcWJYSeptember 14, 2021
“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,” A Better ABK tweeted.
Forced arbitration refers to a common employment contract clause which requires certain employee-company disputes to be settled privately. Ending it is one of A Better ABK's demands.
One anonymous Activision Blizzard employee told Vice that they suspect upper management is attempting to get rid of employees who have been outspoken about the company's alleged discrimination.
The CWA is a national union with 1,200 chartered local unions, with a focus on telecommunications, IT, airline, news media, and broadcast media. It represents an estimated 700,000 members across the public and private sectors. The complaint against Activision Blizzard is part of the union's Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, which it describes as an initiative “supporting workers’ organizing efforts in the technology and game industries.”
Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to PC Gamer's request for a comment.
In July, Activision Blizzard became the subject of a major lawsuit from California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The lawsuit alleged that the company permitted a widespread culture of sexual harassment and discrimination against women in the workplace. It led to an employee walk out, as well as the formation of A Better ABK.
In the ensuing months, several high-profile leaders on Blizzard's development teams have departed the company, including Diablo 4 director Louis Barriga, longtime designer Jesse McCree, and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeMarche. Blizzard president J Allen Brack left his position in early August.
Recently, Blizzard has removed in-game references to developers implicated in the lawsuit, including former World of Warcraft creative director Alex Afrasiabi, who was fired in 2020 for misconduct. Blizzard also announced that Overwatch character McCree will be renamed.