With two syndicates under Activision Blizzard moving forward in contract negotiations, a third subsidiary studio has begun to organize. workers in Boston World of Warcraft Support studio Proletariat attempted to unite under the American Communications Workers, just like Raven Software and Blizzard Albany before them. The workers announced their petition in late December, but withdrew the request on Tuesday.
The Representative of the Communications Workers of America issued the following statement:
The CWA has withdrawn its application for a representative election for Activision Blizzard’s Proletariat studio. Unfortunately, Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak chose to follow Activision Blizzard’s lead and responded to workers’ desire to unionize with confrontational tactics. Like many of the founders, he took the workers’ concerns as a personal attack and held a series of meetings that demoralized and weakened the group’s spirit, making free and fair elections impossible.
As we saw in Microsoft’s Zenimax studio, there is another path forward, one that empowers workers through a free and fair process, without employer intimidation or manipulation. We will continue to advocate alongside those in the video game industry for better working conditions, higher standards and a union voice.
With the petition withdrawn, the workers of the proletariat will no longer vote to unionize.
“We appreciate that the CWA has decided to unilaterally withdraw its petition in response to employee feedback,” Vice Media Relations Vice President Joe Christinat said in a statement to Polygon. “As mentioned, we welcomed the opportunity for each employee to express their preferences securely through a secret vote. Our team at Proletariat does an exceptional job every day. They remain focused on working with their teams to continue to make Proletariat a place where everyone can grow, thrive and be part of an amazing team and culture “.
The majority of workers originally support the union, Dustin Yost, a software engineer at Proletariat, said in a statement released through the CWA. The worker said that “meetings that portrayed the conversation as a personal betrayal” of management had a negative impact on that support. “As we withdraw the union election petition today, and we really hope that the administration will prioritize the concerns that drove us to organize, I continue to believe that union is the best way for workers in our industry to ensure that our voices are heard,” Yost said.
The Proletariat Workers Alliance was looking to secure the company’s existing paid time off plan, as well as flexible remote options, healthcare benefits, and ensuring transparency and diversity a top priority.
“Our top priority remains our people, and we appreciate the contributions the talented Proletariat team has made since joining Blizzard this summer,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement released to Polygon upon filing the petition. “We received the petition over the holidays and will file a response to the NLRB next week.”
“At Proletariat and with our peers across the industry, many of us love our jobs,” Chief Architect of Proletariat Yost told Polygon in early January, before the petition was withdrawn. “We at Proletariat care so much about our team. We want to make sure we have a real voice in our future, in order to have a positive impact on our company for the benefit of our team, our company and anyone who enjoys the content we create. The goal here is to do right for each other.”
The Workers’ Alliance of the Proletariat was to vote with the National Labor Relations Board — the same process the QA unions at both Raven Software and Blizzard Albany went through. Activision Blizzard contested the election in both studio cases, and sought to expand the proposed negotiation unit beyond QA testers.
Companies sometimes struggle to expand unit size to reduce union organizing efforts, to increase the likelihood that union voting will fail. But an NLRB ruling in 2022 made it easier for regulators to unite smaller groups within a company (called microunits), which places the onus on the company to provide hard evidence that a group should be opened.
The CWA filed several unfair labor complaints against Activision Blizzard over its alleged union busting tactics; Activision Blizzard representatives have denied any wrongdoing.
Founded by Seth Sivak Proletariat in 2012, the studio operates independently, working on games such as Charm And StreamLegends Until the studio was acquired by Activision Blizzard in 2022. Sivak is now Vice President of Development at Blizzard Entertainment, overseeing the Boston studio Proletariat, which is now working on World of Warcraft. Allison Brown, a software engineer developer in test, told Polygon that the union talk started before the acquisition, but around the roar of working with the company.
“There was a concern that if we were suddenly part of a larger organization we might lose some of the things that made the proletariat so special,” Brown said.
And she continued, “No matter how much confidence we have in management […], things may change. I’ve been in this industry for 14 years, and I’ve been laid off more than once. I’ve watched the benefits change and get worse. There is no control over it. But if we negotiate collectively, if we get these things in writing, there are mechanisms in place to make sure we have a voice.”
After the petition was made public, the leadership of the proletariat published a blog refusing to recognize the Federation of the Proletariat, forcing the union to vote with the National Labor Relations Board. The leadership of the proletariat called the company “pro-worker”, and hinted that some workers had concerns, which was why management wanted a vote.
Activision Blizzard’s response to previous unionization efforts has been in contradiction to Microsoft’s so-called neutrality of workers agreement. The agreement, signed with the CWA, means that Microsoft will not interfere with the organization’s efforts at the company — neither with existing Microsoft workers, nor with workers potentially joining Microsoft as part of its $68.7 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard (currently under federal trade) litigation. commission).
That agreement was put to the test late last year when the quality assurance workers at ZeniMax Media, responsible for franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Doom and Fallout, announced their intention to unionize. Microsoft agreed to recognize the union after a quick vote outside the NLRB; The company has been able to avoid a lot of bureaucracy due to the neutrality agreement. ZeniMax QA workers voted through union mandate cards and an online portal, with a large majority of workers pledging support for the union.
Update (Jan 9): This story has been updated to include comment from Activision Blizzard.
Update (Jan 10th): On Monday, the leadership of the proletariat published a blog refusing to recognize the Federation of the Proletariat, forcing the union to vote with the National Labor Relations Board. The leadership of the proletariat called the company “pro-workers”.
The Proletarian Workers’ Alliance questioned this, saying that not recognizing the vast majority of union card signers was anti-union. “Their actions this week came straight from the playbook used by Activision and many others,” the workers wrote in a statement. “Management held a town hall last week which disappointed many of our workers. The meeting was inappropriate because of its anti-union influence.”
The workers continued: “We can decide for ourselves whether we want a union. We don’t need help from management. We need – and deserve – respect and impartiality. We want to do what is right by our team and cooperate with management without conflict. We can help make the proletariat the best it can be by supporting each other.”
Update (Jan 24): The workers of the proletariat withdrew the union’s petition on January 24. This story has been updated to reflect that new information.
Update (Jan 24): Activision Blizzard responded to the withdrawn CWA petition:
We appreciate that CWA has unilaterally decided to withdraw its petition in response to employee feedback. As mentioned, we welcomed the opportunity for each employee to express their preferences securely through a confidential vote. Our team at Proletariat does an exceptional job every day. They remain focused on working with their teams to continue making Proletariat a place where everyone can grow, thrive and be part of an amazing team and culture.
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