Blizzard workers plan walkout over sexism scandal, WoW team addresses playerbase

    
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Axios is reporting that Blizzard workers have organized a walkout tomorrow to protest the company’s handling of the sexual harassment and sexual discrimination lawsuit that broke last week. According to the report, employees will walk out in-person at 1 p.m. EDT, while virtual workers appear to be invited to join all day. This particular leg of the protest is being led by “roughly 300 employees” who are demanding a corporate overhaul of recruiting, hiring, promotion, compensation, and arbitration clauses, as well an external audit of HR and executive reporting. One employee did clarify that the walk-out is focused on this specific issue, not on unionization.

Click to display organizers' list of demands

As current Activision Blizzard employees, we are holding a walkout to call on the executive leadership team to work with us on the following demands, in order to improve conditions for employees at the company, especially women, and in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups.

1. An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.

2. The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.

3. Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.

4. Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.

As readers will surely already know, last week California filed a brutal discrimination and harassment lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard following a two-year investigation. In the days that followed, we’ve seen a deluge of leaked memos, press statements, and apologies from both current former Activision-Blizzard leaders, as well as an outraged chorus of workers raising their voices to call out abuses and lies.

Yesterday, following what appears to have been a botched company meeting, employees began signing on to an open letter condemning the corporate response; as of this morning, it had more than 2500 signatures. We still have no formal public statement from J. Allen Brack or Bobby Kotick.

Staff and former staff have also continued speaking out on the situation; Connie Griffith argued that Mike Morhaime’s Dreamhaven is filled with the “old guard” from Blizzard; Éireann Tilley discussed sexism ans transphobia on the customer support side of the studio in Europe and specifically a sexual assault that was ignored by HR; and Tami Sigmund has echoed what several female employees how now said about how boycotting Blizzard products directly affects her pay.

“[N]ot telling anyone how to spend your money,” Sigmund says. “Just hoping that maybe folks should change their phrasing from ‘out of support for the women at Blizzard’ to something else because as a pregnant woman at Blizz it would not feel supportive to lose my income.”

Further reading:

Source: Axios. Thanks, Godnaz.
Update
ATVI stock has dipped a bit over the day.

Update
WAPO puts the signatures at 2600 now and says organizers estimate 1000 employees will walk out virtually. “We wanted the demands to be easy to rally behind, with the intent that this process will take months, if not years,” an organizer told WAPO. “We want commitments and actions from our leadership to be willing to do the work to implement specific and targeted policies. Part of the work will involve figuring out together, the best solutions for these problems. That cannot be done in the space of a sound bite.”

The paper further notes that Blizzard’s Sabrina Brogan announced she’s stepped down as Europe, Middle East and Africa lead specifically because of Fran Townsend’s (now leaked) internal letter to staff. “I am ashamed I am working for this company,” she wrote.

Update
The World of Warcraft leadership team has now made a (rather vague) statement in support of the women of Blizzard. The team says it stands “committed to taking the actions necessary to ensure [it is] providing an inclusive, welcoming, and safe environment both for [its] team and for [its] players in Azeroth.” In addition to promising that it will work to “protect marginalized groups and hold accountable those who threaten them,” it says it will “take immediate action” in the game world to remove “references that are not appropriate for [its] world.” While the studio doesn’t say what those are, we’re assuming it’s references to some of the developers who’ve been named as part of the allegations. “This work has been underway, and you will be seeing several such changes to Shadowlands and WoW Classic in the coming days.”

Update
Blizzard designer Alex Talbott says the signatory count is up to 3200 current and former employees.

Update
WoW designer Valentine Powell has noted that the World of Warcraft team leadership has “agreed to pay [workers] for the time [they] are taking off for [the] walkout.”

Bobby Kotick has also penned a letter to workers this evening; we’ll be picking up that thread in a new post.

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Gipfeli
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Gipfeli

but.. i really really wanted to buy the D2 remaster guys!
that’s too much of a conflict now, i can not buy it anymore.

if only there was a way to play a game without paying for it

not another dime will go from this purse to theirs

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IronSalamander8 .

Good on them for the walkout. These statements by the company just digs that hole deeper. Quitting their games due to Blitzchung being my final straw with them is looking more and more like I made the right decision. Some folks I know that were still playing have finally taken this latest news as a reason to quit their products and some are big fans and were looking forward to D4.

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Aldristavan

Show your solidarity on social media tomorrow!

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Danny Smith

How many of these statements now? 4 or 5? and all conflicting with each other with varying degrees of performative nonesense.

and not even the first time. Remember blitzchung? all the rainbow flags on display -for the sections not broadcast in china of course- and every time this boy crying wolf horseshit is treated like its for real this time.

Who believes them anymore?

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Vincent Clark

Well, for every Fran there is a Tami.

The most powerful tool we have as gamers is to unsub and log off. Period. It’s only when their bottom line is threatened will a company that makes nearly 2 billion per quarter take notice.

“Publication of data on relative compensation” Square Enix does this (voluntarily, I might add)–don’t see any reason why Activision/Blizzard can’t.

“So quotas. Don’t hire people by ability, but by colour.” @Lighthope not even close. Qualifications still have to be there, the fact you went straight for “colour”…sigh.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Do boycotts work? That seems to be the question we’re wrestling with today.

Googled.

And guess what? In general, naysayers come at it from the wrong direction. Boycotts rarely impact a firm’s finances, so why bother? And if that’s your view, you’re right if that’s what you think boycotting is about.

But boycotts do work because they bring public pressure to bear and cause the issue to continue to be covered.

You can google “Do boycotts work” yourself and see the amount of research that’s been done on this. But here’s a non-partisan take on boycotting I found:

https://www.rewire.org/boycotts-actually-work/

So the answer to why bother if it doesn’t hurt ActiBlizz is that it does hurt ActiBlizz, just not necessarily financially.

I think it’s pretty damn clear that ActiBlizz is in turmoil. No official statement. None. Just a few nauseating leaked in-house emails. Granted, they knew they would be leaked, but that’s still not an official statement.

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Totes McGoats

Makes me wonder then – serious question – do you have to actually boycott or is just loudly and publicly proclaiming that you are going to boycott effective?

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Why would you do one and not the other? If you’re concerned about the outcome and believe you are taking the moral position, why would you fudge?

But in today’s world, where appearances are everything, gaslighting is pervasive, and actual actions rarely given the weight they deserve, you may have a point.

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Bryan Correll

Hypocrisy is so easy to commit. Lots of people are going to fall in line with the group consensus on social media even though they don’t actually care about the issues. It’s just keeping up appearances to avoid being ostracized. Unless you’re a streamer or in some other way identifiable in game you can vocally join the cause without anyone knowing whether or not you’re actually following through with your actions.

We live in a world where politicians will violate their own policies if they think no one’s looking. Where the uber-wealthy attend global warming conferences by way of private jets. Where Hollywood was shocked, shocked I say, at the behavior of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, etc. even though it had been common knowledge for a long time. Where tighty-whiteys still dominate men’s underwear even though no one will admit to wearing them.

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Bruno Brito

Good question. I think the prospect of boycotting happening is disconcerting for sure.

But i think independently of the people who just proclaim it, companies are terrified of the people they actually cannot get back.

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Fisty

If we werent making a stink this wouldve been swept under. No doubt.

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Lighthope

Here is what they are demanding, per WoWhead. https://www.wowhead.com/news/activision-blizzard-employees-are-staging-a-walkout-protest-on-wednesday-323572

An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future.

Not happening. Not in a million years.

The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization.

So quotas. Don’t hire people by ability, but by colour.

Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company

I can’t see them agreeing to that. That would be a lawsuit waiting to happen. Any competent lawyer can take any statistic and massage it to make something look bad.

In principal it’s a good idea. And maybe in the settlement with the State that may happen. But Blizzard isn’t going to agree to this out of the gate.

Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff.

That is definitely going to happen.

As far as Tami Sigmund’s quote goes, what a raging hypocrite! Let’s look at it, shall we?

as a pregnant woman at Blizz it would not feel supportive to lose my income. It feels a bit different than say, avoiding shopping at Hobby Lobby or eating at Chick-Fil-A

In other words, “Don’t boycott Blizzard because that affects my paycheque, but go ahead and boycott Hobby Lobby because I don’t care about their paycheques.”

Interesting she picked Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A and not…say…Amazon or Bloomberg or Facebook.

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Bruno Brito

So quotas. Don’t hire people by ability, but by colour.

Yeah…no. Quotas work. People like to harp on them but quotas are good ways of evening unfair starting points. Blizzard NEEDS quotas because their culture was brought by a lack of diversity.

Quotas aren’t something you do to take ability of the equation. It just gives people who wouldn’t even been able to ride the bus to your office the shot to get the job of their dreams.

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Totes McGoats

“It feels a bit different than say, avoiding shopping at Hobby Lobby or eating at Chick-Fil-A, because most of us who signed up to join Blizzard had no idea it would be like this since it’s so misaligned w/ the company values we project.”

Boycott for thee but not for me.

EDIT – I should clarify I am gobsmacked she felt the need to defend boycotts of right-wing companies instead of just saying “boycotts hurt good people more than bad”.

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Vincent Clark

Agreed, I thought this was about sexual harassment and assault not political party affiliation.

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Fisty

Only way to get me back is to give power to the employees.

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Bruno Brito

By the way, did any of you people watch the new cinematic? Because HOOOO BOY

This shit is ironic to say the least. “By our hand” It’s like they didn’t even tried to get a second look.

Edit: UNLISTED LOL

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Danny Smith

Hey man, how else can Steven retcon his wife into doing nothing wrong. Sylvanas -the protagonist of wow- was doing the right thing and working for Elune all along!

…..please clap.

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Bruno Brito

I want you to spare a thought for the artists who had to animate Elune saying that she literally delivered a night elf barbecue as a anima shower for the WQ to save whatever the hell is their new plot point.

Now imagine the same bullshit being translated to animation by a harassed employee. It’s…ugh.

“After our cries for aid went unanswered” H O L Y S H I T THIS COMPANY.

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Munchmeat2

Wow this writing is awful. How does a company this size have trouble finding good writers? I get that WoW lore has never been that great, but lately the story has just been dumb.

Edit: I guess finding good talent when you are got a bunch of harassers working for your company would be the problem.

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Bruno Brito

It’s not just bad. It’s amazingly tone-deaf.

Honestly i was expecting Elune to just say “complain to the HR then, Queen.”

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Danny Smith

The big irony is final fantasy has had to deal with this exact thing before so its easy to place blame on this one. Writer simpvalry is the death of a fictional setting.

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McGuffn

Oh god, I still remember him from the nonsense quotes he gave about 38 studios.

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Greaterdivinity

Is there context for this in terms of the story? >.>

But the unlisted bit is routine, all their spoiler videos I’ve seen are unlisted as a measure to protect folks browsing their channel from finding random spoilers.

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Bruno Brito

Context: Elune allowed Teldrassil to burn so that the sacrificed NElves would be sent to the Shadowlands so that the covenants could use them as anima to impede…whatever the fuck is the new apocalypse in their new plot.

My issues: WQ behaving like a injusticed person ( as is her right ) is incredible tonedeaf of Blizzard. Specially considering she forgives Elune even after Elune admits that she allowed her own kids to die and that plan failed because…i don’t know, i really don’t care.

It’s not just bad, it’s amazingly ironic.

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Utakata

There’s a danger reading too much into this as the script that was quite possibly written outside of the recent events at Blizz. It’s now we are associating the meaning of this in light of such. Although, I’m not blaming anyone for doing so. This is the bed that Blizz is making for itself…

…as for script itself, it has so many of the annoyances of the all the other “Look, I am jumping the shark!” story lines of other things I’ve been following. /sigh

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Bruno Brito

There’s a danger reading too much into this as the script that was quite possibly written outside of the recent events at Blizz.

Only if you consider that we’re knowing this now. But it’s clear that the culture has been there for years, so maybe WE weren’t going to have this discussion about the irony, but i’m sure the artists and VA who did this crap would go to their homes and think “these people really believe they can make such a speech?”

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Stefan

This is the first time i believe they introduce Elune into the game as an actual character with a voice, and they have set this supposedly mighty god up as a scapegoat of sorts for a character who should have been retired quite some time ago.

The worst part is, they said that Shadowlands is just the first story into this cosmic territory, so this is only going to get weirder and not in a good way.

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Sarah Cushaway

This pisses me off just watching it. For many, many reasons.

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Bryan Correll

Well, it’s been a long time since I played WoW and I have absolutely no clue what’s going on there.