Union organizers call Activision-Blizzard’s $18M EEOC settlement a ‘slap in the face’

    
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Monday night, we reported on a planned settlement between Activision-Blizzard and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC was one of four state and federal agencies investigating and/or suing the company in relation to its ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination scandal. But Blizzard announced plans to settle the EEOC-related claims by creating an $18M fund “to compensate and make amends to eligible claimants,” with the excess divided among relevant charities “as approved by the EEOC.”

Disapproval from within the industry was almost immediate, as gamers and workers rushed to point out that while $18M would be a great payout for a handful of victims, we’re talking about kind of a lot of claimants since the days of the Cosby Crew, and moreover, it isn’t a significant sum in context. Activision-Blizzard itself is valued at around $72B. Bobby Kotick will take home $155M this year. As of the company’s last revenue report, it makes about $25M per day. So $18M for years of abusive practices seems like neither sufficient restitution nor sufficient punishment. In context, it could be perceived as a slap on the wrist.

If that’s your position, then you’ll be gratified to know that labor organizers agree with you. The Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, the branch of the Communications Workers of America union relevant to the gaming industry, issued a fiery response to the settlement, calling it “mere pennies considering the resources available to this cash-rich corporation.”

“The U.S. Equal Employment opportunity Commission has a sent a message that corporate bad actors will not be held accountable for their abuse of workers,” CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens wrote.

As we’ve been covering since July, in the wake of the initial lawsuit from the California DFEH, multiple Blizzard staffers and execs have been fired, sponsors have abandoned the company, and the California DFEH accused the company of interfering with witnesses and shredding evidence relating to the lawsuit. We have also noted the rising labor movement within the company, countered by Activision-Blizzard contracting a union-busting firm. To date, Activision-Blizzard has neither acknowledged nor addressed any of the proto-union’s actual demands. With the EOCC contented, Blizzard now faces the California lawsuit, the National Labor Relations Board lawsuit, and the SEC investigation.

The whole saga:

Source: Twitter via Kotaku
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Bryan Correll

Someone really should have told the CWA not to use the term “slap in the face” with regard to a gaming company.

As I said in the comments to an earlier article I will leave the judgement of what is acceptable to those employees who were actually effected. They can sign on to the settlement or they can pursue their own legal actions. I don’t think it’s my call (or anyone else’s) to tell them which course they should take and certainly not justifiable to pass judgement on either decision.*

* That only refers to employees. Feel free to criticize Blizzard, the EEOC, or even the CWA all you wish.

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Utakata

This is slap in the face to everyone save for the perps and their enablers. Wagging the almighty fingers of legalease, corporate status quote and their apologetics will never dismiss that fact. Wanting to change the system that this crap doesn’t happen again is the only recourse here. Full stop.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

The CWA needs to get its act together. You don’t change an industry by wagging your finger at it.

You change an industry by creating standards and then showing who ascribes to those standards and who doesn’t.

You can only do this through public display of information. You can get that information by having your target group participate in surveys. You make them want to participate by giving those who do and meet your criteria awards.

You make them want those awards by publicizing your awards and who won them and publishing where everyone who participated ranked.

Then you go to all the major schools awarding degrees in the industry you’re trying to change and publicize the results of your surveys to students.

This developer is 90% men. Is that where you, a female developer, wants to work?

There is a 20% pay gap between men and women developers at this studio. Is this where you want to work?

There are no reported LGBTQ people at this developer. Is that job for you?

When studios have to compete with other studios for talent based on their working environment, pay scales and so forth, then they will start paying attention to these things.

Until then, studios will continue to thumb their noses at regulations because they can.

If the CWA can’t do this, then some other industry group needs to get off their duffs and figure it out.

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miol

🤷‍♂️

ff tactics.jpg
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Arktouros

it isn’t a significant sum in context

In context of what? Context of their valuation as a company, yearly revenue or otherwise? No. Context in the amount that was being done before ($0)? Yes. It’s very easy to skew how a number looks based on what you want to compare it to. Just like using vague figures like “a lot” of claimants. Is that just more than 1 because any amount is too much? Or are there dozens, hundreds, thousands? The 18 million likely wasn’t arbitrarily pulled out of a hat is what I am getting at.

Case in point the time scope of the EEOC settlement is also not from the Cosby Suite days (2013) but rather from 2016 on it sounded like from reading it. Specifically who is eligible is:

The EEOC has sole discretion in determining the scoring criteria, eligibility, and monetary relief amounts for each Claimant. In order to determine each Claimant’s eligibility, the EEOC will review the information in the Claims Form and determine if the individual: (i) was employed by any Defendant or any Defendant Entity from September 1, 2016 to the Effective Date; (ii) based on the EEOC’s assessment, could assert a claim for sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and/or related retaliation or constructive discharge by Defendants; and (iii) experienced a harm. Such Claimants may be eligible for monetary relief from the Settlement Fund, as determined by the EEOC. The EEOC will also consider whether or not the Claimant is precluded from seeking relief due to a prior settlement and/or judgment and assess documents provided by Defendants to the Claims Administrator. The Claims Administrator will work with the Defendants to secure relevant documents including any prior releases signed by Eligible Claimants for the EEOC to consider in its assessment.

(“Defendants” = Acti Blizz)

Then there’s pro-union organization is angry with settlement with the big business who is predictably anti-union like they all are. News at 11. Forming a union and getting it to stick is hard. Read your history. People literally used to get gunned down trying to form unions, risk their jobs and all sorts of nastiness on the road there. They literally had to shut down the means of production in an entirely united front in order to be listened to. While Activison likely isn’t going to roll out the Pinkertons or anything, just stamping your feet and saying you’re a union and demand to be listened to isn’t how unions are formed or respected.

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Toy Clown

When a person’s life is destroyed by the actions of another, there isn’t any amount of money that can fix that – especially when the victimizers don’t take any measure toward admitting they were wrong, go through counseling-type services to make sure the behavior doesn’t repeat itself, make restitution, etc.

My hope is to see these people in jail for what they’ve done. I want to see the law above money on this one.

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Dug From The Earth

Its seems to be that the responses to this decision fall into two groups:

1. The group who feels like the amount is a joke/slap in the face, etc

and

2. The group who feels like “This is just how things always have been” or “nothing surprising here, moving on”.

The “This was the perfect penalty for what they did, and justice was served!” viewpoint seems to be completely missing here.

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Arktouros

I’m somewhere in between 2 and 3. I think they came up with the amount based on what cases they knew could be proven/claimed and then went a bit higher. Like figure they knew they’d probably have to pay out 10 million, then another 1-2 million for administrating all this, then another 5 million for charity.

There’s all sorts of people who do this kind of stuff out there for a variety of topics such as Value of Life and such. As you often point out businesses tend to go the route of least cost, and someone has to run those numbers.

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Dug From The Earth

I was just kinda pointing out mostly how the “system” isnt really a representation of the people anymore.

But thats true on multiple levels, not just legal cases like this.

Its a sign that things probably should change.

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Arktouros

I think it’s a pretty great representation of the people.

History has shown that real change is often times costly and violent as those who desire something different clash with those who benefit from the status quo. It won’t be accomplished by wagging fingers in shame of what people imagine what the world should be like.

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Dug From The Earth

The reactions are a great representation of the people.

The EEOC’s verdict… not so much.

And, as you say, real change is often times costly and violent… I fully expect people to “fight” this further, at the cost of their resources and time. (this isnt a fight with your life event)

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Arktouros

I still disagree because it’s ultimately people’s complacency that lead to such organizations giving these kinds of verdicts.

Talking about a fight with a cost of resources and time is all well and good but large Corporations have been fighting that fight non-stop for the last 40-50 years. I’m not going to hold my breath on that outcome.

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Hikari Kenzaki

At some point, ActiBlizz will have to come to the realization that no small measure is going to save them. There is blood in the water and they need to make bold move if they want to salvage this going forward.

We’re talking:

  • Support formation of the Union, they can make stipulations here so this is balanced out and not an us vs them situation.
  • Set a one-year, $25m salary cap with all remaining funds going into a victims relief fund. (This one is a bit rough, because they would need the agreement of all the executives involved)
  • 10% across the board salary increase for all employees making less than $300k per year (I know this might seem high, but we’re including software engineers, division leads, and middle management here) with minimum pay of $15-20 per hour for all hourly positions and probably some minimums for salary employees as well.
  • The point is, it needs to be big, it needs to be now, and it needs to be something they decide to do, not something they settle to do because one government agency or another forced them to.

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    Greaterdivinity

    They used the “slap in the face” meme! WoW players who have been using that for years, rejoice!

    Real though, as I said before this is bullshit. This isn’t enough of a settlement to deter further behavior like this since the settlement is pocket change. If you want to pressure/force companies to do better, they need to have ACTUAL deterrents. Take this shit out of executive pay rather than the company overall. Ramp up fines/settlements in a big way. Attach fines/settlements to federal oversight for months/years to ensure compliance following the fine/settlement. Or just don’t settle as much and instead simply issue fines or take them to court.

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    styopa

    Hasn’t the /slap emote been removed now?

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    Greaterdivinity

    Well shit, they’ll have to use a custom emote for that one!

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    Peregrine Falcon

    If the EEOC agreed to a mere $18 million settlement it means that they knew that they had no case and that they’d spend more than that going to court just to lose.

    So essentially the EEOC said “We think you did something bad” and ActiBlizz said “Here’s $18 million. Go away.”

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    Greaterdivinity

    Not really, this is how regulatory agencies work most of the time. They’re extremely friendly/deferential to the companies they regulate, and they’ve largely been designed to have limited teeth to boot (See: The FAA controversy following the multiple Boeing 737 Max crashes that revealed how deeply the FAA was in bed with plane makers and how poor their actual regulation was).

    The settlement is so they get to claim a quick win and say “we’re doing something!”. Because sadly, court battles are painfully long an expensive as massive companies can draw those out for years through legal shenanigans.

    Given everything else going on within ATVI that’s been 100% confirmed, I’m surprised to see anyone eager to jump up to defend them.

    Andy McAdams
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    Andy McAdams

    GD you beat me to the “That’s not how this works” comment :-)

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    Armsman

    Yeah me too.

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    Bruno Brito

    Given everything else going on within ATVI that’s been 100% confirmed, I’m surprised to see anyone eager to jump up to defend them.

    It actually hurts me to see it.

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    Peregrine Falcon

    I’m NOT defending Acti-Bliz. Saying the EEOC didn’t have evidence is NOT defending them. It’s saying “They couldn’t find evidence.” Which, considering that Acti-Bliz is also accused of destroying evidence, isn’t surprising.

    Secondly, not all federal regulatory agencies are friendly with the companies they regulate. The truth is a bit more complicated than that.

    Third, I work in the US legal system. So any “that’s not how this works” post should also include your bar number.

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    Greaterdivinity

    Saying the EEOC didn’t have evidence is NOT defending them.

    They didn’t? According to whom? I didn’t see any announcements that they had no evidence, because if they had no evidence why would ATVI even need to settle? They couldn’t even bring a lawsuit or any legal actions against them if they had no evidence.

    That’s cool you work in the legal industry and all, do you work in the government? Do you work for regulatory agencies? Are we supposed to like, ignore the decades of history of regulatory agencies largely monumentally failing to do their jobs effectively? Do we pretend that these agencies aren’t largely just stepping stones for employees to get sweet, sweet jobs in the industries they used to oversee/regulate after putting in the time with underpaid government gigs?

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    Peregrine Falcon

    Look, I’m not saying that you’re wrong about any of those things, because you’re not. I’m saying that the truth is far more complicated that most of you all seem to think it is.

    Yeah, you always hear about the FDA and the FAA being buddy-buddy with the companies they oversee, but do you ever hear about the CFPB? Do you remember when the USDA shut down Tyson foods and threatened to jail its execs and sell off the company’s assets?

    The “decades of history of regulatory agencies” is just the limited amount that you’ve seen shown by the media. For every case of some company getting away with something big that they shouldn’t have there’s a hundred (or more) cases of companies being fined or closed down for minor code violations, some of which are obviously accidental.

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    Greaterdivinity

    CFPB is a far, far, far more recent creation, and one that’s still fought over by political parties, with one side wanting to give it the teeth to actually do its job and the other side trying to get rid of it entirely, and if not make it functionally useless. It doesn’t have the long histories that other regulatory agencies have.

    And the Tyson thing was a temporary shut down due to contaminated meet coming out of the plant which is hardly a “hit” rather than them simply acting like they’re supposed to. I don’t know what sell off you’re talking about, but if it’s the old pay-for-play that an executive got caught giving illegal contributions to the AG secretary I don’t think the USDA had anything to do with that.

    For every case of some company getting away with something big that they shouldn’t have there’s a hundred (or more) cases of companies being fined or closed down for minor code violations, some of which are obviously accidental.

    So one would assume these quiet actions are largely for small companies? If so like…that’s the freakin problem. See above with the old quote from FF Tactics. If I’m reading your post correctly, that absolutely backs up my point that these regulatory agencies treat the big bois with kid gloves.

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    Peregrine Falcon

    Ok, you win. Don’t bother listening to someone who works in the industry and actually knows what they’re talking about.

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    Utakata

    Welp…you could “work in the industry” and still have no idea what you are talking about. (Also see: Dunning–Kruger effect)…

    …but glad you admitting defeat…er, “gracefully.” o.O