Activision Blizzard refuses to recognize GWA union, QA workers will file with NLRB

Activision Blizzard refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Raven QA workers who voted to unionize last week. The newly formed workers union, which goes by the name Game Workers Alliance in association with the Communication Workers of America, gave Activision Blizzard until 6 PM ET on Tuesday to respond to their request to be recognized as a union. The group of workers will now proceed to the next step, which is pursuing a full union election recognized by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).


In response to the companies refusal to recognize them, the Game Workers Alliance released the following statement on Twitter: "We, the supermajority of workers at Raven QA, are proud to be confidently filing our petition with the NLRB for our union election.  We are deeply disappointed that Raven Software and Activision Blizzard refused to uplift worker's rights by choosing to not voluntarily recognize our union in spite of our supermajority support."


They continued: "This was an opportunity for Activision Blizzard to show a real commitment to setting new and improved standards for workers. Instead, Activision Blizzard has chosen to make a rushed restructuring announcement to try and hinder our right to organize. Once again, when management is given a choice, they always seem to take the low road. However, we are proud to file with the NLRB as we enjoy supermajority support for our union and know that together, we will gain the formal legal recognition we have earned."



Raven Software studio head Brian Raffel sent an email to staff following the missed deadline, as reported by Washington Post. 


“After carefully reviewing and considering the CWA’s initial request of the company, we worked quickly to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have led to an expedited election process," Raffel stated. "Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement. [We] expect that the union will soon be moving forward with the filing of a petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election of eligible Raven employees. If filed, the company will respond formally to that petition promptly”.


The rejection comes after a group of QA employees at Activision Blizzard's Raven Software studio voted to unionize last week, following multiple weeks of refusing to work after the company ended the contracts of multiple workers on the QA team. That strike ended last week, following the vote to unionize by the workers, who are working alongside the Communication Workers of America in their organizational efforts.



Raven Software also announced on Tuesday their plans to "reorganize" their QA department, splitting them up and embedding them into individual teams across the company. 


In a statement to Polygon, Activision Blizzard said: "Raven Software shared an organizational update that continues the work the studio began in November which will transition Quality Assurance teams to work directly alongside Animation, Art, Design, Audio, Production and Engineering teams within Raven. This change will enhance the collaborative work our teams do to support our games and players and make the opportunities for our talented QA staff even stronger."


Tom Smith, organizing director for the CWA, responded to the new reorganization, saying it was an attempt to "thwart" workers from using their right to organize and saying ABK is taking the "low road". 


He said in a statement on Twitter, "Yesterday Activision Blizzard broadcasted their plans to restructure the Raven Software Quality Assurance department in order to bring the group ‘...into alignment with the best practices of other prominent Activision studios.’  This announcement, which came three days after Raven QA workers publicly requested recognition of their union –

@WeAreGWA (CWA) – is nothing more than a tactic to thwart Raven QA workers who are exercising their right to organize."
He continued: "When Management uses meaningless buzzwords like ‘alignment, ‘synergy,’ and ‘reorganization,’ they are sending a message to workers: ‘we make all the decisions, we have all the power.’"
He went on to also criticize ABK's acquisition by Microsoft, arguing: "Workers organize to have a voice at work to rectify these power imbalances. This is why big tech mergers that could increase and further concentrate corporate power, like Microsoft’s proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition, deserve real oversight. This scrutiny is even more important when a company like Activision Blizzard impedes its workers from exercising rights that are protected under U.S. law."


While ABK may not have recognized the GWA as a union this week, the union effort is far from over. We can expect the GWA to file with the NLRB soon, which will trigger a formal union election among the workers. ABK is expected to resist these efforts, based on their past treatment of union efforts, including hiring the law firm Wilmer Hale, which is known for its anti-union actions. in the past several months, the company has been accused of worker intimidation and Union busting by the CWA.


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