Managers at Activision Blizzard-owned studio Proletariat, which co-develops the MMORPG hit World of Warcraft, have refused to voluntarily recognise a new union. Instead, they insist that employees will need to participate in a formal voting process with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to be recognised. This follows Call of Duty co-developer Raven Software and Diablo 2 Resurrected studio Blizzard Albany, both owned by Activision Blizzard, also being denied voluntary union recognition, but successfully organising after an NLRB vote.
Under US labour laws, if a majority of workers within a proposed union’s bargaining unit sign cards agreeing that a union should be formed, an employer has the option to voluntarily recognise that union. This is what happened earlier in January when Microsoft voluntarily recognised a union for quality assurance workers at ZeniMax Media – the parent company of Fallout and Starfield developer Bethesda, which Microsoft successfully purchased in 2020.
In a statement issued through the Campaign to Organise Digital Employees, the Proletariat Workers Alliance, which is campaigning to form a union at the studio, says that “Proletariat leadership and upper management at Activision have refused our requests to talk about neutrality and are forcing us through an NLRB election, even though a supermajority of our bargaining unit have signed union cards.” The Alliance says that the actions by Proletariat leadership “have been right out of the union-busting playbook used by Activision and so many others,” and that “we can decide for ourselves if we want a union. We don’t need help from management.”
The Alliance continues: “We need – and deserve – respect and neutrality. We want to do right by our team and collaborate with management without contention.” A statement signed by the “Proletariat Leadership Team,” however, says that putting unionisation to an NLRB vote is the “fairest option.”
“We have come to understand that many of our employees prefer to have an anonymous vote,” the statement says. “To that end, we filed our formal position to the National Labor Relations Board earlier today, and requested an anonymous voting process to take place.
“Besides being the fairest option, this also allows employees to get all the information and various points of view. This is an important decision, everyone deserves some time to process it and to better understand its potential impacts.”
The statement also says that Proletariat leadership “is and always has been pro-worker,” and is “committed to having voluntary open discussions with the team members about what is happening.”
In May 2022, QA workers at Raven Software, which co-develops Call of Duty, successfully unionised following an NLRB vote. QA workers at Blizzard Albany, the studio behind Diablo 2 Resurrected, also voted to unionise in December, after condemning “hostility” from Activision-Blizzard.
In both instances, Activision-Blizzard objected to the vote, arguing that all workers at the respective studios, not just those in the QA sectors, should participate; in both instances, the NLRB rejected Activision-Blizzard’s requests.
After voluntarily recognising the union for QA workers at ZeniMax, Microsoft is still pursuing its proposed $69 billion USD purchase of Activision-Blizzard, despite contentions from the Federal Trade Commission and Call of Duty players that it may violate antitrust laws and lead to reduced competition in the gaming industry.