Activision Blizzard has had a consistent train of just, the best PR for well over a year at this point. Most of it has had to do with the ongoing sexual discrimination lawsuit(s) leveraged at the company, but there’s also been news in regards to unionization efforts: most notably at Raven Software, a QA testing subsidiary that became the first industry union at a major US gaming developer back in May. In June, a complaint was filed with the National Labor Relations Board against ActiBlizz, claiming the company retaliated against union activity in a variety of methods: including the laying off of testers, forced reorganization, and withholding raises. While a number of those allegations are still being researched — one has been found valid: the NLRB has discovered that Activision Blizzard did in fact withhold raises from Raven Software employees for their union activities.
In April, QA testers at AB outside of Raven were offered raises to $20 an hour (which, if I may editorialize for a brief moment, still seems way too low for a company that makes billions of dollars in annual revenue). The testers at Raven, who make approximately $27k to $69k a year, among the lowest at the company, were not offered the same raise. The NLRB has found this to be evidence that Activision Blizzard withheld raises due to Raven’s unionizing activities. This is an early victory for the union, which can use the finding as leverage in collective bargaining negotiations.
A spokesman for AB cited the lack of pay raise to the National Labor Relations Act, which in his words requires employers not to grant wage increases while an election is pending. This claim goes unexamined by the Washington Post source article, though rudimentary fact checking by yours truly does show that the NLRA contains a line prohibiting “Granting wage increases deliberately timed to discourage employees from forming or joining a union. (Section 8(a)(1))” Though by doing the exact opposite, ActiBlizz arguably did in fact discourage employees to join the union. The NLRB certainly seems to think so, at least.
Activision Blizzard and the Raven union (Game Workers Alliance) continue to negotiate for a collective bargaining agreement. If they can’t settle, the NLRB can file a complaint against ActiBlizz, or even prosecute the case before a federal judge, though this currently seems unlikely. We’ll make sure to report on any new findings involving the case going forward.
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