Activision Blizzard, via Polygon
At Activision Blizzard, we deeply respect the rights of all employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union. We carefully reviewed and considered the CWA initial request last week and tried to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have led to an expedited election process. Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement.
We expect that the union will be moving forward with the filing of a petition to the NLRB for an election. If filed, the company will respond formally to that petition promptly. The most important thing to the company is that each eligible employee has the opportunity to have their voice heard and their individual vote counted, and we think all employees at Raven should have a say in this decision.
Across the company, we believe that a direct relationship between managers and team members allows us to quickly respond and deliver the strongest results and opportunities for employees. As a result of these direct relationships, we’ve made a number of changes over the past couple years including raising minimum compensation for Raven QA employees by 41%, extending paid time off, expanding access to medical benefits for employees and their significant others, and transitioning more than 60% of temporary Raven QA staff into full-time employees. We look forward to continuing a direct dialogue with our team and working together to make our workplace better.
While the middle paragraph in particular suggests some conflict over whether only these 34 individuals should be recognized as an appropriate bargaining unit as opposed to the entirety of the 300-something person studio, it’s not explicitly clear why Activision Blizzard chose to defer to the NLRB rather than voluntarily recognize the organization. However, this decision comes shortly after Polygon’s Nicole Carpenter reported that Raven Software’s Quality Assurance was to be broken up and embedded directly into individual teams such as Animation, Audio, Engineering, Production and so on.
The message shared by studio head Brian Raffel outlines a plan to embed QA into departments of responsibility.
Although this move has led many to believe the reorganization is a response to and attempt to break up the union, several developers across the industry have also expressed their approval, citing the benefits of working closer with design teams (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).
Although the timing is certainly suspect, it’s therefore just as reasonable to assume this actually had been planned since November as indicated, rather than concocted and executed over a handful of days. Based on the commentary offered by other professionals within the industry, there’s also plenty of reason to believe the move actually could be for the betterment of working conditions, particularly if this model is applied to other Activision Blizzard studios. Despite the potential advantages however, it still threatens to undermine the employee’s attempt at organization, as it could become harder for the now split up Quality Assurance employees to demonstrate their shared community of interest when each may end up working under different conditions.
The Washington Post
Wilma Liebman, former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board under former president Barack Obama, said that Activision Blizzard management could be trying to dilute the group of potential union members by moving them around, or simply dilute support for the union.
“The union would have a decent case to make that by doing this on the heels of a request for recognition and on the heels of all this union organizing activity, that this was somehow unlawful, intended to kill the union strength,” said Liebman. “I would say that having seen these kinds of things many times, that there’s possibly more afoot here than meets the eye.”
Far from damping their efforts however, both the Game Workers Alliance and Communications Workers of America remain committed to their goal of establishing a video game development union, though that will now be up to the judgement of the National Labor Relations Board and a vote between employees.
The Game Workers Alliance and the CWA expressed confidence in their petition to the NLRB for a union election in a joint statement.
“We are proud to file with the NLRB as we enjoy supermajority support for our union and know that together, we will gain the formal legal recognition we have earned,” read the statement.
Onah Rongstad, a current Raven Software quality assurance tester, said Tuesday that “so long as we are testing, we are a unit that is linked by our function within the studio. Our solidarity won’t be broken by something like reorganization.”