A group of Activision Blizzard employees vote to form the company’s first union

A group of quality assurance employees from Raven Software, a game studio owned by ActivisionBlizzard (ATVI) which runs on the company’s popular “Call of Duty” series of games, voted on monday to form a union, they call the Game Workers Alliance. The union will represent 28 workers, 19 of whom voted to unionize, according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which backed the effort.

“Our greatest hope is that our union will inspire the growing movement of workers organizing in video game studios to create better games and build workplaces that reflect our values ​​and empower us all,” they said. the alliance members said in a statement shared by CWA. “We look forward to working with management to positively shape our working conditions and the future of Activision Blizzard through a strong union contract,” they added.

The unionization vote follows months of tension between Raven and Activision Blizzard over recent layoffs. In December, dozens of software workers at Raven all but went out of work after Activision Blizzard fired 12 quality assurance testers from their unit. Since then, some workers have continued to strike, call for the laid-off workers to be reinstated, as well as for the company to hire long-time contractors as full-time employees.

“We respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether to support or vote for a union or not,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told CNN Business when asked about the union vote. “We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio, which numbers approximately 350 people, should not be made by 19 Raven employees.”

The union push marks the latest push by Activision Blizzard workers to campaign for better working conditions. Last July, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, alleging a “frat boy” work culture where several female employees experienced gender discrimination, sexual harassment and wage inequalities. (The company told CNN at the time that it addressed past misconduct and criticized the lawsuit as “inaccurate” and “distorted.”)
The lawsuit sparked a turbulent period for the company, including employee walkouts, a management reshuffle and pressure on the CEO to resign.

Activision Blizzard continues to face intense scrutiny from regulators as well as backlash from employees.

The National Labor Relations Board ‘found merit’ in allegations that Activision Blizzard retaliated against employees seeking to unionize and used an ‘overbroad social media policy’ to prevent workers from getting unionized. speak out online about wages, hours and working conditions, NLRB spokeswoman Kayla Blado said. A declaration. If Activision Blizzard does not settle with the NLRB, the agency will file a formal complaint, Blado added.

“These allegations are false,” the Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement. “Employees can and do speak freely about these issues in the workplace without retaliation, and our social media policy expressly incorporates [labor] rights.”

On Tuesday, a day after the Raven union vote, a group of current and former Activision Blizzard employees announced the formation of a workers’ committee against sex and gender discrimination. The committee aims to “ensure that company management fulfills its obligations … to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace,” according to a press release shared with CNN Business by a group representative. .

The group also released a request list, including an end to mandatory arbitration, protection from retaliation against employees who file complaints of harassment or discrimination, additional support for transgender employees and 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Employees are also calling for more support for nursing mothers – including safe access to a lactation room and proper storage equipment – ​​following allegations that breast milk in Activision Blizzard lactation rooms has been stolen and that employees were using breastmilk refrigerators to store beer.

Activision Blizzard said it has increased lactation locations in its offices, improved the quality and safety of equipment, and added new locks on all refrigerators, while taking steps to meet other employee demands.

“We have … already upgraded our lactation facilities, waived arbitration, hired new [diversity and inclusion] leaders and worked with employees to make our policies and processes more inclusive, to name just a few issues raised by the letter,” the company spokesperson said. “We thank these employees and will continue to work with all our employees on our journey to be a better company.”

Microsoft's blockbuster Activision Blizzard deal could raise uncomfortable challenges for US antitrust authorities

Ongoing tensions with employees come as the company prepares for a major transition.

Earlier this year, Microsoft (MSFT) agreed to buy Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion, making it one of the biggest technology acquisitions in recent years. Microsoft has had its own challenges with workplace culture, including allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior by its founder and former CEO Bill Gates beginning in the 2000s. (CNN has not independently confirmed all allegations.)

— Sara Ashley O’Brien of CNN Business contributed to this report.

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