Activision Blizzard employees filed a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board with the support of a major union alleging that the game developer and publisher giant intimidated, monitored, and interrogated workers to discourage them from discussing labor conditions such as those raised in the discrimination lawsuit against Activision Blizzard filed in July.
Employees who work under the banner “A Better ABK,” referring to Activision Blizzard King and the Communication Workers of America, claim that Activision Blizzard had:
“Terrorized” employees and, “told them” they couldn’t talk about “wages and hours” or any investigations. The July lawsuit was a result of the investigation.
“Maintained a broad social media policy.”
“Enforce the social media policy against employees engaging in protected concerted activities.”
“Threatened employees or disciplined because of protected concerted activities.”
“Involved in surveillance of employees involved in protected concerted activities and interrogation of employees regarding protected concerted activities.”
Protected concerted activity refers to employees who discuss ways to improve their workplaces or organize into labor groups, such as collective bargaining groups. CWA also confirmed that Activision Blizzard had hired WilmerHale from WilmerHale, an anti-union law firm well known for its work with Amazon and other corporations.
Vice informed an Activision Blizzard employee that they suspect upper management of trying to fire employees who have spoken out about discrimination.
Activision Blizzard didn’t immediately respond to PC Gamer’s request for comment.
Although A Better ABK has not announced its intention to unionize under CWA, the parties who worked together to accuse Activision Blizzard of hindering employee organizing suggest that it is possible.
The CWA is a union that includes 1,200 local unions chartered by the CWA. It focuses on telecommunications and IT. It is estimated to have 700,000 members in both the private and public sectors. Activision Blizzard was the subject of a complaint. It is part of the Union’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees initiative, which it calls “supporting workers’ organizing efforts in technology and gaming industries.”
The A Better ABK account tweeted today, “If the NLRB rules against us, the ruling is retroactive and will set a precedent that every worker in the US cannot be intimidated out talking about forced arbitration.”
Forcing arbitration is a clause in an employment contract that requires employees to resolve disputes privately. It is one of the demands A Better ABK made after the July lawsuit.
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed the lawsuit against Blizzard. It alleged that Blizzard allowed a culture of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This led to the resignation of an employee and the creation of A Better ABK.
Over the following months, many high-profile members of Blizzard’s development team have left the company. These include Diablo 4 director Louis Barriga and Jesse McCree and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LaMarche. J Allen Brack, the president of Blizzard, resigned in August.
Blizzard has removed all in-game references to the developers involved in the lawsuit. This included Alex Afrasiabi (ex-World of Warcraft creative director), fired in 2020 due to misconduct. Blizzard announced that McCree, the Overwatch character, will be renamed.