Activision-Blizzard’s Raven Software gets green light to vote for a union by National Labor Relations Board

    
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This past Friday saw a major step forward for the QA workers of Activision-Blizzard studio Raven Software, as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) granted devs at the studio the all-clear to vote for a formal union formation. The NLRB will mail out ballots to eligible employees on April 29th, which must be turned in before close of business on May 20th, followed by a live ballot count via teleconference on May 23rd.

As readers will recall, this union’s creation was germinated when QA staff at the studio were suddenly fired, causing workers to strike for nearly two months, at which point workers began the process of unionization. ActiBlizz has reportedly tried every possible measure to stall the process, including sending threatening company-wide memos, a sudden restructuring of part-time QA employees to full-time, and attempting to use procedural routes to delay the vote.

In spite of the structural changes mentioned previously, the NLRB’s formal ruling found that QA testers are the lowest paid employees at Raven; the pay increase to $18.50 that followed the workers’ promotion to full-time employees “would put the vast majority of QA testers at $38,430 annually, which is well below any other position’s listed minimum salary range,” according to the ruling.

As one might expect, Activision-Blizzard is displeased with the decision and noted it will weight future legal options such as an appeal of the NLRB’s ruling. “While we respect the NLRB process, we are disappointed that a decision that could significantly impact the future of our entire studio will be made by fewer than 10 percent of our employees,” reads part of a statement from the company. “We believe a direct relationship with team members is the best path to achieving individual and company goals.”

In other ActiBlizz business news, the company put out a press release noting a new arrival to its board of directors and a new candidate for the board, both of whom were trotted out as “a continuation of [ActiBlizz’s] Board refreshment process and [an underscoring of its] commitment to broadening the skills, experiences, and diverse backgrounds of [the] directors,” while further misdeeds from CEO Bobby Kotick were brought to light regarding a restraining order an ex-girlfriend filed against him in 2014 – a fact that his then-girlfriend, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, had covered up, which was allegedly orchestrated by Kotick, Sandberg, employees of both Facebook and Activision, and outside legal and PR advisors.

Activision-Blizzard is considered a controversial gaming company owing to a long string of scandals over the last few years, including the Blitzchung boycott, mass layoffs, labor disputes, and executive pay fiasco. In 2021, the company was sued by California for fostering a work environment rife with sexual harassment and discrimination, the disastrous corporate response to which compounded Blizzard’s ongoing pipeline issues and the widespread perception that its online games are in decline. Multiple state and federal agencies are investigating the company as employees strike and call for Bobby Kotick’s resignation. As of 2022, the company is being acquired by no less than Microsoft.
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