While video game developer Blizzard Entertainment will merge under the umbrella of software giant Microsoft in June 2023, the company has agreed to negotiations with unions. However, the agreements come at the heels of more negative workplace allegations from within one of the game developers subsidiary studios.
Prior to agreeing to meet with union negotiators, workers from a Wisconsin-based subsidiary studio, Raven Software, organized a walk-out late last year in response to pre-holiday season layoffs of Raven’s QA (quality assurance) employees.
The walkout resulted in a five-week strike and a GoFundMe page dedicated to help Raven employees participating in the strike. The GoFundMe, set up by Activision Blizzard employee Jessica Gonzalez, was called ABK Workers Alliance. The fund raised just over $380,000 of its $1 million goal.
Since then, employees at Raven and other subsidiary companies of Blizzard have been eager to unionize.
The aspect of unions is a first for Activision Blizzard, which has recently navigated its way out of a lengthy legal battle with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Department due to company-wide allegations of inappropriate workplace culture.
In a blog post dated June 10, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick announced that the company would begin “negotiations with the Communications Workers of America related to the 27 quality assurance employees at Raven Software, the majority of whom have chosen to be represented by this union. With the election having concluded, we will engage in good faith negotiations to enter into a collective bargaining agreement.”
Read Kotick’s full statement to employees via the ActivisionBlizzard blog.
On Monday, June 13, the Communications Workers of America confirmed that union talks would also continue with Microsoft.
“The agreement will apply at Activision Blizzard beginning 60 days after Microsoft’s acquisition closes and it reflects a fundamental belief by both organizations that enabling workers to freely and fairly make a choice about union representation will benefit Microsoft and its employees, and create opportunities for innovation in the gaming sector,” CWA wrote in a statement.
We are proud to announce that we have entered a ground-breaking labor neutrality agreement with @Microsoft!
The agreement will apply to Activision Blizzard workers if Microsoft's planned acquisition is approved.https://t.co/v3zY2eYVZH
— CWA (@CWAUnion) June 13, 2022
CWA President Chris Shelton added that this move to unionize gives employees “a seat at the table.”
“This agreement provides a pathway for Activision Blizzard workers to exercise their democratic rights to organize and collectively bargain after the close of the Microsoft acquisition and establishes a high road framework for employers in the games industry,” Shelton said. “Microsoft’s binding commitments will give employees a seat at the table and ensure that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard benefits the company’s workers and the broader video game labor market. The agreement addresses CWA’s previous concerns regarding the acquisition, and, as a result, we support its approval and look forward to working collaboratively with Microsoft after this deal closes.”
On July 28 of 2021, Blizzard employees in Irvine organized a walkout. News of the walkout, later confirmed by Irvine Weekly, came through an internal email, and included a list of demands for workplace equality, focusing on the LGBTQ community.