Diablo devs tell Activision back to its old Union-busting tricks

Diablo IV's Lilith prepares to plead her case before the NLRB.

Image: snow storm

Nearly two months after Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick announced that the company would finally begin negotiating its first union contract with the Game Workers Alliance at Raven SoftwareBlizzard Albany staff, currently working on Diablo IV, say the publisher is again trying to disband unions. They accuse Activision Blizzard of rehiring the law firm of Reed Smith to undermine their own organizational efforts rather than voluntarily recognize the company’s second union.

“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 and once again spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a unionized company,” said Albany Game Workers. alliance. , which organizes for issues such as better pay, health care and work-life balance, wrote in a press release on Wednesday. The group says Activision Blizzard is once again enlisting the help of Reed Smith, an organization that “union avoidance‘, in a ‘vain attempt’ to ‘delay recognition’. As workers tell it, Reed Smith plans to urge the National Labor Relations Board to deny the individual QA group’s right to join a union.

When asked for comment, the Duty publishing house didn’t say why the law firm rehired Reed Smith or how much it paid, but it did confirm it would push again for a studio-wide vote on unionization. “Given the significant impact this change could have on approximately 150 people in Albany (formerly Vicarious Visions), we believe every employee in Albany working on Diablo should have a direct voice in this decision; it should not be made by less than 15% of employees,” company spokesman Rich George wrote in an emailed statement.

It went on:

The team from the Albany location is an integrated group that shares a focus on the same game franchise and works on related game features and functionality. These collaborators share important similarities in their work and it is essential to maintain coherence throughout the complex game development and production process.

A screenshot of an old Reed Smith presentation previews tactics for discouraging unionization.

Screenshot: Reed Smith

This is the same playbook the company rolled out last time when Raven Software first tried to unionize. First, the QA staff integrated directly into other disciplines within the wider studio, and later argued that for these and other reasons, the entire studio should vote on a union rather than just those in QA who already overwhelmingly supported it. In the end, the NLRB sided with the workers, but it still delayed the proceedings by months.

In the meantime, Activision Blizzard teamed up with Reed Smith, an international company that boasted on his website at the time to help companies prevent and combat unionization. It even kept a PowerPoint presentation on her website which contained slides about how unions tried exploiting lazy workers and strategies to convince workers that unions were a bad idea. That presentation has since been removed.

Activision Blizzard’s renewed fight against unionization comes just two months after Microsoft, currently planning to acquire it for $69 billion, announced it would remain “neutral” on the efforts of the unions. As part of a campaign to get regulatory approval for the largest technology acquisition in history, it looked like it could mean a new playbook for Activision as well. Apparently not. The deal is expected to close before June 2023.

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