Workers Launch Third Union Drive at Activision Blizzard

Workers Launch Third Union Drive at Activision Blizzard

After two organizing successes in Wisconsin and New York, the Communication Workers of America is working with a third group of workers at video games giant Activision Blizzard to form a union.

A broad swathe of workers at the Activision Blizzard-owned Proletariat studio in Boston is seeking to join the CWA, which previously organized video game workers at fellow subsidiaries Blizzard Albany and Raven Software. According to the union, workers requested voluntary recognition of their group from management and have not yet received a response. They have since filed a petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board.

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The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment.

Unlike their efforts at Raven Software and Blizzard Albany, which focused on quality assurance (QA) workers, at Proletariat the CWA is seeking to form a “wall to wall” union — in other words, they are attempting to organize all workers outside management, including engineers, animators, QA workers and producers. If the CWA succeeds in this effort, the bargaining unit would consist of 57 workers.

Activision Blizzard announced that it had acquired indie developer Proletariat (Spellbreak) in the summer of 2022 in an effort to improve development for its blockbuster title World of Warcraft. According to one worker, this was a motivating moment for workers to organize at the developer.

“Everyone in the video game industry knows Activision Blizzard’s reputation for creating a hostile work environment, so earlier this year, when we heard that Blizzard was planning to acquire Proletariat, we started to discuss how we could protect the great culture we have created here,” Proletariat software engineer Dustin Yost said in a statement. “By forming a union and negotiating a contract, we can make sure that we are able to continue doing our best work and create innovative experiences at the frontier of game development.”

In its mission statement, the group — which is calling itself the Proletariat Workers Alliance — says that with the union it is seeking to retain company benefits such as its healthcare plan, its policy on allowing remote work and its “flexible PTO policy.” The group is also seeking to codify professional development opportunities and diversity, equity and inclusion policies, to tamp down on any alleged expectation that overtime is “mandatory,” to create a “transparent” process to report misconduct and to improve communication about compensation.

Adds Proletariat associate game producer James Van Nuland in a statement, “At Proletariat, we have always emphasized looking out for each other as people, and we’re committed to preserving what is best about our studio. We are in this together.”

The CWA’s first two unions at Activision Blizzard have, so far, formed via NLRB elections rather than through voluntary recognition. Its latest union at the company, at Blizzard Albany, prevailed in a vote that took place in early December.

Earlier this year Microsoft announced that it was acquiring Activision Blizzard in a $68.7 billion megadeal; months later, the CWA and Microsoft entered into a labor neutrality agreement that would take effect 60 days after the deal closes. However, the deal’s fate remains up in the air after the Federal Trade Commission sued to block the transaction in December, saying that such a deal would quash competition in gaming.