Call Of Duty Maker Reveals Plan To Squash Union Effort

Call Of Duty Maker Reveals Plan To Squash Union Effort
Image: Activision

Quality assurance testers at Call of Duty: Warzone studio Raven Software gave management until today, January 25, to voluntarily recognise their newly formed union, Game Workers Alliance. Instead, embattled publisher Activision Blizzard announced tonight it would be forcing a vote with the National Labour Review Board, and called on that vote to include everyone at the studio, a move that would greatly diminish the unionization effort’s chances of success.

Thirty-four staff from Raven’s QA department revealed last week that they were organising with the Communications Workers of America to unionize, an unprecedented step for developers at a major gaming company. They called on Activision Blizzard–in the midst of similarly unprecedented upheaval following allegations of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination last year, as well as the announcement earlier this month of a $US68.7 ($95) billion sale to Microsoft–to voluntarily recognise the union, which had supermajority support within the QA department.

“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,” Activision Blizzard said in a statement tonight upon rejecting the offer. “Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement.”

Activision Blizzard’s statement continued:

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.

Read More: Inside The Revolt That Led To Activision Blizzard Workers’ Historic Unionization Push

When a company refuses to voluntarily recognise a union, the organisers behind it must win a majority in an election ratified by the NLRB, a hurdle that would have been easy for Game Workers Alliance to overcome within just the QA department. By requiring ”all employees at Raven” to “have a say,” Activision Blizzard is effectively arguing that either the entire studio unionizes or no one does.

It’s unclear if that argument will ultimately win out with the NLRB, but it will no doubt continue to delay an actual election while the two sides hash it out.

“We would hope that in this case it would take place quickly but companies can choose to delay the process to file objections and concerns along the way and to drag things out, and when they do that it’s generally to give themselves more time to wage an anti-union campaign,” a spokesperson for the CWA told Kotaku in an interview earlier this week.

That anti-union campaign appears to already be in motion. The Washington Post and Polygon report that Raven studio boss Brian Raffel has been having meetings with staff about plans to break up QA and embed testers among individual teams. It’s a widespread practice in game development, but a suspiciously timed move that Game Workers Alliance called an attempt to “hinder our right to organise” in a statement today.

“[S]o long as we are testing, we are a unit that is linked by our function within the studio,” Raven QA tester Onah Rongstad told The Washington Post today. “Our solidarity won’t be broken by something like reorganization.”

Comments

  • Ah Americans and their idiotic anti union philosophy. Heaven forbid workers work together to defend their rights, while HR departments work together with management to protect the corporate interests.

    • It’s not a problem that is limited to America.

      Also, that’s what HR departments are for, to work together with management to protect corporate interests. In no universe is the function of a HR department to protect workers.

      • I had to explain this to a friend recently who was rightfully complaining after being screwed over by his management and when he went to HR to report it they effectively responded with “Yeah, so…?”

      • It’s pretty prevalent in the USA. The union busting and demonization in the past has left most unions weak compared to other countries.

  • Awkward moment when people think unions are the bee’s knees… Meanwhile, the AEU refuses to fight an actual stupid rule, where, my wife had been in hospital for 2.5weeks due to pregnancy complications and was forced to give birth to our little girl 7 weeks premature.

    For her to not have her maternity leave backdated 10 weeks (start of Christmas Holidays instead of when she had applied to take it), she is required to be at the school on the first day back… But the school refuses to allow her to come in, not attend the meetings via zoom. They will also not recognise copious medical reports and certificates.

    Why won’t the union fight it?? According to the multitude of people my wife has been on the phone to, from hospital, while recovering, it’s “not something to concern themselves with”.

    I love government schools and unions.

    • We all know what happens when a union gets too big for its britches, gets taken over by special interests etc but we also know what happens when there’s no union at all.
      It’s a thin line unfortunately.

      Your situation sounds especially shitty, best wishes for you, your wife and the little one!

      I won’t get started on the AEU but I assume their saying the lack of notice means they won’t fight to backdate, despite the fact it was an emergency.
      I’ve never had to deal with them personally but in the past I’d tell folks to engage your reps at all levels, escalate like a madman, lay complaints with them and any other regulatory/oversight organisation you can think of and make a ton of noise.

      Mate I hope things improve.

      • A”necessary evil” I call them (unions in general). But you are not wrong. But for some reason people actively choose to ignore such things… I mean.. people forget the hoo-haa surrounding the CFMEU, Melbourne Uni (or was it RMIT) and Melbourne Building Maintenance in the 80s or 90s… And let’s not forget links to organised crime and all… And that’s just the CFMEU…

        Situation is good all things considered. Can’t speak more highly of the midwives, nurses and such. And now the neonatal nurses. Top notch. Personally would have liked a bit more mental health support for the wife… 1 visitor for max 2 hours is a bit tough, especially when the only time you are really seeing anyone is when they are poking holes in you lol… But… She’s all good now.

        Atleast in the nursery, even though itsy only parents allowed, we can be there all day if we choose (and get parking validation! Baby girl is already paying her way haha)

        Thanks mate

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