Activision employees walk off the job seeking abortion, LGBTQ support

Enlarge / Some of the reported 450 employees that walked off the job at Activision Blizzard Thursday.

Hundreds of Activision Blizzard employees walked off the job on Thursday in an effort to get company support for employees living in “locations which are passing anti-abortion, anti lgbtq+, or any other discriminatory legislation,” a note from the group said.

Participants in the “Walkout to End Gender Inequity” were demanding that Activision Blizzard provide assistance to employees who want to avoid such legislation by moving to and working from “safe states,” organizers said. That would mean the company allowing fully remote work for nearly all employees and paying for relocation costs and cost-of-living adjustments for employees who move to such “safe states,” among other changes.

The walkout—which had been publicly planned for weeks and was supported by a donation-based strike fund—was joined by 450 employees, according to a Washington Post report. Participants came from multiple Activision Blizzard offices, including the Irvine, California, headquarters of Blizzard Entertainment and Activision Publishing offices in Austin, Texas, among others.

“Supporting our workers at Blizzard today where female workers have continuously faced harassment and working conditions haven’t improved,” Irvine mayor Farrah Kahn tweeted yesterday. “This cannot continue through next year in hopes that Microsoft will do better.”

“We support the right of our employees to express their views and values in a safe, responsible way, without fear of retaliation,” Activision Blizzard spokesperson Rich George told the Post. “Our leadership team remains focused on ensuring we are the very best place to work. This includes ensuring gender equity throughout the company and comprehensive access to reproductive and other health care services for every employee.”

A growing movement?

In terms of raw numbers, the walkout represents only a small minority of Activision Blizzard’s roughly 6,500 North American employees. But the labor action is the latest highly visible sign of a small but growing union movement throughout the company.

Members of the Raven Software quality assurance team formally formed a union in January and won a National Labor Relations Board election for recognition last month, meaning Activision Blizzard management must bargain with them. Raven Software is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard. Those employees were recently joined by QA testers at Blizzard Albany, whose 20 members filed for union recognition this week.

Both groups are supported by CODE-CWA, a subsidiary of the Communication Workers of America that has been working for years to organize workers across the game industry (some Ars Technica staffers are members of the NewsGuild of New York, which is also a CWA subsidiary).

Raven Software developers previously staged a walkout to protest layoffs affecting nearly 30 percent of the team late last year, followed by a company-wide strike joined by roughly 200 employees. That strike ended in January as a “gesture of good faith” ahead of the then-pending recognition of the Raven Software union, organizers said.

In April, Activision Blizzard promoted hundreds of QA testers across the company from contractors to full-time employees. That promotion did not apply to the unionizing Raven Software workers, though, a move organizers said was “an effort to undermine their effort to form a union.”

A previous “walkout for equality” at Activision Blizzard last July sought management action on mandatory arbitration clauses, diversity, and salary transparency across the company.

Microsoft, which is currently finalizing plans to purchase Activision Blizzard, announced last month that it was entering a “labor neutrality agreement” with the CWA. That agreement will allow employees to “freely and fairly make a choice about union representation” without interference from the company, the groups said.

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