Activision Blizzard’s playbook fell short again. In spite of Delays, Remedies and Threats towards workers that organizing would lead to lower wage increases, quality assurance developers at the Diablo Production studio Blizzard Albany today voted 14-0 to unionize. That Game Workers Alliance Albany are now the second group within Activision Blizzard to form a union and the latest testament to a growing labor movement within the larger gaming industry.
Of the 18 employees eligible to vote, 14 voted in favour, with one vote barred and three others rejected by the employer. Both sides have five days object to today’s results. When no one objects, the group is represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and begins the tough negotiation process with Activision Blizzard for their first contract over issues like pay, overtime and health benefits.
“It has taken an incredible amount of work and perseverance to advance this fight,” said Amanda Deep, Blizzard’s associate test analyst, in a press release. “With this win, we are standing up for ourselves and each other because we care deeply about our work and the games we make. Organizing has empowered us all to fight hard for the dignity and respect every worker deserves at work.”
“We are considering all options, focusing on what is best for all employees and offering the best games to our millions of players,” said Activision spokesman Joe Christinat kotaku in an opinion. “We still believe our entire Albany team should have the right to vote. This is about fundamental fairness and rights for every team member.”
Friday’s voting was originally scheduled to take place last month but was postponed after an actual snowstorm rolled through Albany, New York, where the studio was previously known Vicarious Visions based. But Activision Blizzard had also attempted to cancel the union vote altogether. She argued to the National Labor Relations Board that a prior hearing had been corrupted by the use of anti-union Zoom avatars and that the issue of unionizing should be left to the studio as a whole, not just the QA department. The NLRB denies it call of Duty Publisher’s Appeal earlier this week.
The vote also comes more than a month after Lulu Cheng Meservey, Activision’s head of corporate communications, tried to discourage employees of unionizing in a Slack message warning of how long it can take to negotiate a deal. “During the lengthy contract negotiations, labor laws prohibit companies from increasing wages/bonuses/benefits without specific agreement with the union, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that non-union workers generally receive larger raises than unionized groups,” she wrote . She was apparently booed by staff in the form of a wall of negative Slack emojis, but still keep posting about it on twitter.
Blizzard Albany QA’s successful union organizing initiative follows similar efforts Sister studio Raven Softwareas well as elsewhere in the video game industry, including under contract QA staff at BioWare. Both companies are currently negotiating their first contract. Raven Software QA, which unionized back in May, recently blamed Activision nickel-and-diming it during contract negotiations and refused to respond to many of his original proposals.
Among other things, it was alleged that the publisher would only agree to collective bargaining during the day if the union paid for the lost working hours. This hostile stance comes despite promises from potential future owner Microsoft that it would play nice with all the developers who wanted to unionize.
Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Update 2.12.22 13:56 ET: Added statements from Game Workers Alliance Albany and Activision.
https://kotaku.com/activision-blizzard-diablo-4-union-bust-vote-game-dev-1849847433 Diablo 4 developers win second Union vote within Activision Blizzard