It is important to keep in mind what is going on within Activision Blizzard at this time regarding ongoing allegations about the work culture. The ongoing lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) against the company is over reported toxic workplace culture. The bulk of the suit focuses on “violations of the state’s civil rights and equal pay laws,” specifically regarding the treatment of women and other marginalized groups. To learn more about the proceedings thus far, including details listed in the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, please check out our previous coverage here.
Raven Software quality assurance workers at Activision Blizzard will get the chance to vote whether or not to unionize starting this month, after a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board.
This news comes by way of Polygon, which reports that the NLRB ruled Friday that the 21-person QA unit in question is eligible to unionize after Raven’s parent company, Activision Blizzard, challenged the effort, attempting to make it so that the entire 230-person team must vote on the decision. Now, the 21 people in question can begin voting once ballots, which are going to be mailed out on April 29, have been received. The ballots will be counted on May 23 and if a supermajority of yes is reached, the Game Workers Alliance union will be official and can begin negotiations with Activision Blizzard.
This news comes months after at least a dozen QA contractors at Raven were laid off. Following that, QA employees at the studio began to strike in response, and soon after that, 34 workers attempted to unionize. Raven asked Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognize this union by January 25 but hours after the deadline, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said it had declined to do so, citing that the two parties could not reach an agreement. Earlier this month, Activision Blizzard converted all of its U.S.-based QA testers to full-time employees with benefits and increased wages, but the company said current Raven workers would not receive the new pay initiatives, “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Board.”
“Whether Raven workers choose to unionize has nothing to do with the salary increases elsewhere for Activision’s QA workers,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Bloomberg at the time.
Many, including Game Workers Alliance secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens, have stated that this move by Activision Blizzard is the result of Raven’s push for better working conditions and pay, but Steffens said “it’s especially galling then that Activision has excluded Raven Software QA workers, who have been at the forefront of this effort, from these benefits,” in a statement to Fanbyte earlier this month.
In response to the NLRB giving Raven the green light to vote on whether or not to unionize, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Polygon that the company is reviewing its potential appeal options.
“While we respect the NLRB process, we are disappointed that a decision that could significantly impact the future of our entire studio will be made by fewer than 10% of our employees,” the spokesperson told the publication. “We believe a direct relationship with team members is the best path to achieving individual and company goals. We are reviewing legal options regarding a potential appeal.”
As Polygon notes, the Game Workers Alliance tweeted “We are so proud to announce that the NLRB ruled that our unit is eligible for election. Thank you to everyone supporting our campaign since our initial strike up until this very moment. Time for democracy.”
Amidst all this, Microsoft’s nearly $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard grows closer but Microsoft has said it will not interfere with unionization efforts happening at the company.
For more, read Game Informer’s original coverage of the Raven Software layoffs and then catch up on the Raven Software strike that happened as a result, including Activision management’s response to it.