Management at Activision Blizzard has reportedly filed a motion to delay the union vote count currently taking place between QA testers at Blizzard Albany, the studio formerly known as Vicarious Visions. The result of this election, which was allowed to go ahead by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), was due to be announced on 18 November 2022. Now, a final count is up in the air.
Activision Blizzard has allegedly demanded the ballots be impounded, claiming the vote count should not take place until the NLRB makes a decision on a new appeal filed by the company. This NLRB appeal argues the vote should take place amongst the entire studio staff, and not just QA testers – although this argument was previously shot down in the union vote process.
In late October 2022, the NLRB agreed that Blizzard Albany QA testers had the right to vote on unionisation as they were a completely separate entity from other developers working at the company. Activision Blizzard has reportedly filed the appeal directly against this claim, as management believes ‘no [NLRB] decision addresses the appropriate scope of a bargaining unit in a video game studio.’
This is despite the NLRB successfully and recently negotiating the unionisation of Raven Software’s QA team, which also comes under the Activision Blizzard banner.
The motion filed by Activision Blizzard has been labelled union-busting by many – but it’s not the first move the company has made against potential unionisers. In early 2022, it was reported that a union-busting firm had been brought into the company amidst legal challenges, and even made claims that unionisers were ‘lazy, non-productive, or inefficient’ ‘malingerers’ who were ‘whiners’ and complainers’.
According to Activision Blizzard, the decision to count votes before hearing the filed appeal would create prejudice in the voter pool, muddying the waters of a potential studio-wide union vote.
‘Given the significant impact this decision could have for everyone on the Albany-based Diablo team and the tight integration of our operations there, we believe strongly that each of the 107 eligible employees deserves to have their votes counted, not just the 18 quality assurance testers who are important employees but make up a small fraction of the team,’ an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told GamesIndustry.biz.
‘We are pursuing an appeal to the NLRB regarding its proposed bargaining unit, because companies as well as union organisers have the right to make their case.’
In response, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) has claimed this motion is just an attempt to silence employees and stop them voting in a legitimate election.
‘Instead of staying neutral, Activision’s management continues to present the same failing arguments in a desperate attempt to interfere with workers’ legal right to make their own decisions about forming a union and negotiating a collective bargaining agreement,’ the CWA said in a statement to GamesIndustry.biz.
‘It’s clear the company’s executives feel threatened by workers organising in New York, Wisconsin and across the country.’
The final decision of the appeal and vote count will likely be detailed in the coming weeks.