Overbuff Recall - December 12, 2021
ABK Workers Alliance Calls for Strike
On Thursday this week, the ABK Workers Alliance called for a work stoppage until their demands were met, announcing their intent to strike. The ABK Workers Alliance is an organization made up of employees of Activision Blizzard King.
ABK Strike Demands
Reinstate employees and that were recently terminated from the Quality Assurance (QA) department of Raven Software, the Activision Blizzard team behind Call of Duty.
Hire all members of Raven QA that have been kept on contract for years as full-time employees.
Late last Friday, December 3, it was reported that Activision Blizzard informed over a dozen QA contractors from Raven Software that they will be terminated at the end of January 2022, a number that represents about a third of Raven QA’s’ employees. In its November earnings call, Activision Blizzard leadership told investors they had made over $2 billion (USD) in revenue in just three months. (Washington Post)
Despite this almost unimaginable amount of money, Activision Blizzard could not find a way to keep and pay these people.
Employees report that before this news, they were told they would have consistent work and were encouraged to relocate to be closer to work (at their own expense). (ABetterABK Twitter)
I know most of our audience is younger and may not understand what all of this means so I’m going to try to help out. I’m not an expert on US labor laws, and what I’ve learned comes from my own research. Everything in this section is under the heading of, “if I understand correctly” and fully admit that I may not have everything correct, or fully correct.
Unionization Process Begins
Blizzard Senior UI Engineer Valentine Powell shared that this week that they and others have started the process of giving out union authorization cards. Organizers hand cards out to employees to sign that indicate they want to be represented by a union. Once 30% of employees have signed, the organizers can tell the proper federal authorities they are going to vote on if they will create a union. If 50% or more of that subset say yes, the union is formed.
This November video from Last Week Tonight on union busting is informative on just what unions are and what companies do to prevent them. Just today Activision Leadership has started the process of busting this organization with an email to employees “warning” them about how “bad” it is to have a union represent them. Text of the union busting email to employees is below.
- In the US, unions and organized labor groups must give a minimum 10 days’ notice of their intent to strike or stop working.
- Activision Blizzard will decide if they will listen and discuss the demands or completely ignore them.
- ABK Workers Alliance started a strike fund on Go Fund Me to help cover strikers’ expenses should a work stoppage occur and employees are no longer earning income. As of this writing the fund has collected over $230,000 USD. (Go Fund Me)
Union Busting Email to Activision Blizzard Employees
You’ll notice that this letter once again repeats the line that Activision Blizzard leadership goes to for every communication, highlighting what they consider progress. They do these each time as a way to put themselves in a more positive light when the reality is much of what they claim are employee-led efforts.
I’ve bolded the section where Brian tries to scare employees away from organizing.
A Message from Brian Bulatao
At Activision Blizzard, we are working hard to create a more inclusive, supportive, and rewarding environment, and thanks to your input, we are making progress.
In the past few months, we’ve announced that we’re converting nearly 500 temporary workers to full-time employees at Activision Publishing studios, and we have increased wages for a large portion of temporary workers and added paid time off benefits. We introduced a zero-tolerance harassment policy and waived required arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims. We have made significant commitments to increase gender diversity and are dedicating $250 million to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent across the industry. We have more to do, and we believe that direct dialogue between management and employees is essential to the success of Activision Blizzard.
As you may have seen yesterday, there was a communication supported by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) that asked employees to sign and submit union authorization cards. I want to be clear about this: the leadership of Activision Blizzard supports your right, under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), to make your own decision about whether or not to join a union.
As you make this decision for your future, we ask only that you take time to consider the consequences of your signature on the binding legal document presented to you by CWA. Once you sign that document, you will have signed over to CWA the exclusive right “to represent [you] for the purposes of collective bargaining concerning all terms and conditions of employement.” That means your ability to negotiate all your own working conditions will be turned over to CWA, just as the document says.
Achieving our workplace culture aspirations will best occur through active, transparent dialogue between leaders and employees that we can act upon quickly. That is the better path than simply signing an electronic form offered to you by CWA or awaiting the outcome of a legally-mandated and regulated bargaining process some time in the future.
If we fail to achieve the workplace goals we have set forth–if we fail to do the things we’ve committed to doing–then of course you will still always have the right to engage with, and vote for, CWA. But we are confident that we will make the progress we’ve previously pledged to make and create a workplace with you that we can all be proud of.
As always, we welcome outreach with concerns or ideas to help make improvements, and there are multiple avenues internally for dialogue, both direct and anonymous.