Blizzard is union-busting again, this time targeting the Diablo IV team

Here we go again


It would appear that Blizzard just can’t stop trying to fight those pesky workers. QA devs at Blizzard Albany, formerly known as Vicarious Visions before Blizzard subsumed the studio and more directly known as the studio currently working on Diablo IV, are leveraging some pretty serious charges at the company, calling to mind the entire war Blizzard waged against QA workers at Raven Software.

QA devs at the studio are seeking to form a union of their own known as the Albany Game Workers Alliance in an effort to improve working conditions at Blizzard Albany. The group claims that Blizzard has tried to stall the process, delaying recognition of the union’s creation and re-hiring the Reed-Smith law firm in another attempt to bust the union’s formation; readers will remember Reed-Smith as the same consultancy firm hired by Blizzard in its futile attempt to break up Raven Software QA’s union formation.

According to a statement from Blizzard, it aims to this time launch a studio-wide vote on the creation of a union instead of the departmental vote process that saw Raven QA be officially recognized by the National Labor Relations Board. Such an effort in Albany, if successful, would effectively put low-paid entry-level no-benefits positions against high-salary senior developer positions.

“Given the significant impact this change could have for roughly 150 people in Albany, we believe every employee in Albany who works on Diablo should have a direct say in this decision; it should not be made by fewer than 15% of employees,” reads the statement, which is similar to the one Blizzard issued following the Raven Software QA vote. “These employees share significant commonalities in their work and maintaining cohesiveness throughout the complex game development and production process is essential.”

We note again that in spite of Activision-Blizzard’s insinuations (and previous attempts to merge QA into other departments to thwart unionization efforts), neither Raven Software QA nor Blizzard Albany QA seek control of the fates of everyone in the studio; they represent only the QA workers with whom they are organizing. Here’s GWA Albany’s statement:

“It appears that Activision Blizzard’s management has once again decided to take the low road by choosing to fight against our union in spite of the fact that 95% of us have signed union representation cards. Almost every time this company has the opportunity to begin to repair its reputation and demonstrate that it respects its workers, it declines to do so. Earlier this year, Activision fought fiercely against the supermajority of Raven QA workers who wanted a union voice. Activision lost that fight. And it’s clear that the company will lose again this time. Instead of following Microsoft’s lead and committing to a labor neutrality agreement, Activision has made the clear and conscious decision to deny us our basic labor rights while once again spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a union-busting firm.

“After the failure to recognize the will of the workers at Raven Software, Activision has been given another chance to redeem itself in the eyes of not only its workers but also the public. There was reason to think this time could be different. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick had even sent a letter informing employees that the company would negotiate a contract with the Raven QA workers in good faith.

“But in an unfortunate and unsurprising turn of events, the company has chosen to delay recognition of our union in an futile effort to disband it. We remain willing to engage with management productively if ABK leadership will commit to high road labor standards. However, if Activision continues its hostility, we are more than ready to go forward and win the formal legal recognition our union deserves.”

source: Kotaku (1, 2)
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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