Blizzard Albany’s Diablo QA wins right to unionize as NLRB rejects Activision-Blizzard challenge


It’s a good day for games industry workers as Activision-Blizzard has once again failed to suppress the burgeoning worker unions forming within the company: Last night the National Labor Relations Board ruled that another group of Acti-Blizz QA testers is eligible to form a union.

Readers will recall that this group is the QA team at Blizzard Albany, which was known as Vicarious Visions until its full assimilation with Activision-Blizzard last year; the Albany, New York, studio has been working on the Diablo franchise for the last few years, perhaps most notably the in-development Diablo IV.

As it did with QA workers at Raven Software, Activision-Blizzard had attempted to argue that QA should not be able to organize on its own and that any union should be company-wide, which would inevitably become a clash of classes as well-paid designers are incentivized to outvote the underpaid tech positions that are most in need of protection. The company has maintained that allowing QA to organize means giving a “handful” of employees control over the future of the whole studio, which of course is misleading as QA’s vote impacts only QA and nothing is stopping other units within the studio from organizing themselves (except the company’s now very welldocumented and illegal unionbusting efforts).

The NLRB rejected Activision-Blizzard’s argument once again and granted QA workers the authority to organize themselves as a bargaining unit, specifically citing the wide disparity in pay between the groups. The vote will apparently take place in mid-November, which means Activision-Blizzard has a few weeks to use its bullhorn to send company-wide emails like this one that disparages the Raven QA union and discourages union support.

We’ll just end this on a comment from a Blizzard Albany worker who is not a QA tester, as quoted in WAPO: “It’s about time. […] Our QA testers are some of the most talented and skilled people working in our company and they are critically undervalued by corporate. I think that all games workers need a union, but QA is in especially dire need.”

Source: WAPO
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 unionize and call for Bobby Kotick’s resignation. As of 2022, the company is being acquired by no less than Microsoft.
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