One year ago today, I was puttering around in the evening, probably playing video games, when our tipbox exploded with the news that a state agency in California had just launched a massive lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard that alleged sexual discrimination and harassment that went to the top of the company. I remember dropping everything as our team huddled around in chat, wading through the lawsuit and trying to sort out fantasy Blizzard from reality Blizzard, as the company behind one of the world’s biggest MMORPGs was exposed very publicly as a haven for misogyny so vile that one employee committed suicide. It wasn’t just the biggest MMO news of the year; it was likely the biggest gaming story of the decade, and it wasn’t even the only scandal to rock the company in recent years, as Blizzard was still recovering from the 2019 Blitzchung fiasco.
The California lawsuit is still ongoing, but there have been plenty of trail markers along the road from then to now: more lawsuits and settlements, dozens more accusations, federal investigations, executive sackings, mass firings, the “Diversity Space Tool,” political maneuvering, pay discrepancies, sponsors fleeing, layoffs, labor walkouts, alleged meddling by the governor of California, stock plummets, unionbusting, claims that Activision shredded evidence, board turnover, shareholder revolt, the breastmilk thieving incident (…), the bathroom peeping incident (…), and even revelations of a death threat from Activision-Blizzard’s Bobby Kotick, who attempted to clean it all up by abruptly selling the company to Microsoft – a merger still pending but expected to complete in 2023.
We’ve been collecting all of the stories right here if you want the whole slate, but today we’re going to focus on one of the major positives to have come from the entire ordeal: a serious push for unionization, both within Activision-Blizzard itself and the greater games industry. Last month, QA workers at Activision’s Raven Software were victorious in their half-year quest to unionize, and just this week, another group of workers – at Blizzard Albany, which used to be Vicarious Visions – announced it would likewise pursue unionization.
And as of today, workers across the company’s multiple branches are walking out in support of gender equity (the walkouts are staggered across timezones and climates: Texas workers began at 9 a.m. EDT this morning, Minnesota workers at 10 a.m. EDT, and New Yorkers at 11 a.m. EDT, while California employees won’t begin until 2 p.m. EDT). Among the workers’ aims are convincing Activision-Blizzard to allow fully remote work, to provide complete gender and reproductive healthcare through its health insurance partner, and to provide financial support to workers located in states currently enacting discriminatory legislation. Workers have also reiterated past unmet demands that employees be included in audits of sexual harassment policies, that ABK meet with worker-led anti-discrimination committees, and that ABK sign a labor-neutrality agreement.
Today hundreds of ABK employees across the US are walking out to demand an end to gender inequity. With hostile legislation against reproductive rights and the LGBTQ+ community, we believe it's important to act now to create a safe workplace for marginalized workers. pic.twitter.com/jWAEFqcVgb
— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) July 21, 2022
Today, ABK workers walked out to demand an end to gender inequity! ✊ pic.twitter.com/UirQs3hc4j
— CWA (@CWAUnion) July 21, 2022