ABK Workers Alliance calls Activision Blizzard changes “a huge win”

Activision Blizzard has made some big changes in response to employee pressure, including a big pay cut for CEO Bobby Kotick

Today, Activision Blizzard announced the implementation of a zero-tolerance harassment policy, initiatives to increase the percentage of women and non-binary people at the company, an end to forced arbitration of sexual harassment claims, and more visibility on pay equity. CEO Bobby Kotick is also taking a pay cut to the minimum salary allowed by California law. The ABK Workers Alliance calls these changes “a huge win”, but says there’s more work to be done.

In a letter to employees, also published as a press release, Kotick says “I have asked the Board to reduce my pay to the lowest amount California law will allow for people earning a salary, which this year is $62,500. To be clear, this is a reduction in my overall compensation, not just my salary. I am asking not to receive any bonuses or be granted any equity during this time.”

The company will no longer require arbitration for sexual harassment and discrimination claims. Forced arbitration clauses essentially require workers to go through a company-mandated process to resolve legal issues – in other words, it prevents employees from suing their employers. An end to forced arbitration was also one of the key demands from Riot Games employees back in 2019, and one which that company had rejected.

Activision Blizzard plans to “increase the percentage of women and non-binary people in our workforce by 50% and will invest $250 million to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent”. That money will fund initiatives over the next ten years to inspire “diverse talent to pursue career opportunities in gaming through an ABK Academy that includes partnerships with colleges and technical schools serving under-represented communities, mentorships for participants, and a rotating apprenticeship program that leads to game development jobs, similar to the programs we began with the United Negro College Fund and Management Leadership for Tomorrow.”

The ABK Workers Alliance says on Twitter that “while today was a huge win for us, we remain vigilant and continue to push for other industry practices that need to change. We still stand firm by our demand that the investigation must be done by an unbiased third party, of which WilmerHale is not one. We continue to push for light to be shed on other industry practices, like crunch, which can be especially harmful to the health of game devs, and especially the health of disabled and chronically ill game devs. We continue to give our unwavering support for our colleagues across the industry who are also pushing for change. A Better Ubisoft still has demands that are not being met. Together we will be the change.”

Activision Blizzard is facing a lawsuit filed in July by the state of California (since expanded for QA and customer service contractors) alleging years of discrimination and harassment. Since then, CEO Bobby Kotick has called the company’s initial response “tone deaf”, employees have staged a walkout, Blizzard president J Allen Brack has left, and the ABK Workers Alliance has demanded change at the company. The lawsuit is ongoing; follow the latest developments here. In September, an agency of the US federal government opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard’s response to sexual misconduct and discrimination complaints from its employees, as part of which Kotick has reportedly been subpoenaed. The company is also facing a separate unfair labour practice suit alleging “worker intimidation and union busting” filed by a workers’ union, also in September. In another, separate development, Activision Blizzard reached an agreement with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “to settle claims and to further strengthen policies and programs to prevent harassment and discrimination”.