Activision Blizzard has emailed staff arguing that “active, transparent dialogue between leaders and employees” is better than unionisation as ongoing strike action heads into its fifth day.
Last month, Activision Blizzard was the focus of a damning Wall Street Journal report detailing further alleged sexual harassment, assault, and inappropriate behaviour at the company – further shining an unflattering spotlight on an organisation already facing widespread condemnation following the launch of a California state lawsuit in July calling it a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women”.
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick came in for particular criticism in the Wall Street Journal report, with the publication claiming Kotick was aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct and mistreatment of female employees across many parts of the company “for years”.
The industry reaction was swift – Sony, Nintendo, and PlayStation all made statements condemning Activision Blizzard – while 1,800 employees signed a petition demanding Kotick step down. However, Activision’s board of directors all rallied around the CEO, saying it “remains confident” in Kotick’s “leadership, commitment and ability”.
Earlier this week, frustrated Activision Blizzard employees launched renewed strike action, now on its fifth day, in part to demand the company reverses the recent layoffs of 12 Raven Software QA testers and make contractors full-time. In tandem, the ABK Worker’s Alliance announced a $1m USD fund to support workers who wish to continue the walkout and risk losing pay. At present the fund has received over $234k in contributions.
Additionally, Activision Blizzard employees have launched a bid for unionisation, with several staff members confirming on social media that they’ve now received and signed union cards – part of the process a workforce must go through to gain collective bargaining rights.
It’s in this climate that Activision Blizzard’s chief administrative officer Brian Bulatao has now written to company employees in an email shared by Washington Post journalist Shannon Liao. In the email, Balatao revisits previous talking points regarding the steps Activision is taking to address its heavily criticised company culture, but the bulk of his message directly focusses on recent reports of attempted unionisation among staff.
Although Balatao begins by telling workers “the leadership of Activision Blizzard supports your right, under the National Labour Relations Act (NLRA), to make your own decision about whether or not to join a union”, he then dedicates the following three paragraphs to framing unionisation in a less-than-positive light.
“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 [the Communications Workers of America]. Once you sign that document, you will have signed over to the CWA the exclusive right ‘to represent [you] for the purposes of collective bargaining concerning all terms and conditions of employment.’ That means that 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 sometime in the future.”
“If we fail to achieve the workplace goals we have set forth – 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,” Bulatao concludes. “But we are confident that we will make the progress we’ve previously pledged to make and create a workplace with you that we all can be proud of.”