Unionizing studio under Activision urges leadership to be more like Microsoft when dealing with unions

December 28, 2022

A group of workers at Proletariat, a studio acquired by Activision Blizzard in July, is forming a union through an affiliation with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Proletariat Workers Alliance/CWA, the union being formed, encourages Activision to follow in the footsteps of Microsoft, which approaches unionization efforts with neutrality.

“We ask that Proletariat and ABK leadership voluntarily recognize our union and bargain in good faith,” the workers say in their press release with CWA. “We believe that leadership should follow in the steps of Microsoft and commit to a Labor Neutrality Agreement so that any and all workers throughout our company may unionize without fear of retaliation or interference.”

Proletariat Workers Alliance/CWA is composed of 57 workers, which include animators, designers, engineers, producers, and quality assurance workers. According to the group, the talks to form the union started with Activision’s plan to acquire Proletariat. Dustin Yost, a software engineer at Proletariat, underscored Activision Blizzard’s notorious reputation for fostering unfavorable working conditions for its workers.

“Everyone in the video game industry knows Activision Blizzard’s reputation for creating a hostile work environment, so earlier this year, when we heard that Blizzard was planning to acquire Proletariat, we started to discuss how we could protect the great culture we have created here,” Yost explained. “By forming a union and negotiating a contract, we can make sure that we are able to continue doing our best work and create innovative experiences at the frontier of game development.”

The group will be the third studio under Activision Blizzard to file for a union representation election with CWA. The first two, Blizzard Albany (formerly Vicarious Visions) and Raven Software, managed to form their unions despite the hurdles they faced because of Activision Blizzard’s anti-union actions. The Proletariat still hasn’t confirmed whether or not it will recognize the union being formed, but workers have high hopes that Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision will bring something positive to them. It can be recalled that the software giant agreed to remain neutral when workers at ZeniMax decided to unionize with CWA. It also made a legally binding agreement with CWA that stresses it will remain neutral toward unions that will be formed by Activision employees post-acquisition. With this, Proletariat Workers Alliance/CWA members asked Activision to apply the same approach.

“Activision leadership’s attempts to prevent its workers from joining together in a union have not only been a waste of time and money, they have caused further damage to morale and underlined the company’s reputation for creating a toxic, hostile work environment,” said CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens. “Microsoft has shown that even the largest American corporations can choose a different path and allow workers to freely and fairly choose whether or not they want union representation. It’s not too late for Activision’s leadership to change course and begin to repair the company’s public image and the relationship with their workers by recognizing the Proletariat workers’ union and committing to productive engagement at the bargaining table.”

The union aims to push different points that will benefit workers in various ways. In its press release, the Proletariat Workers Alliance/CWA details six major areas that will be addressed under the union.

  • Our progressive, human-first benefits such as; a flexible PTO policy, remote work as a permanent option, and robust healthcare.

  • Open and transparent communication over compensation and pushing to pay workers a thriving wage.

  • Clear, equitable, and actionable processes and resources for workers to attain their career goals such as; professional development, paths to promotions, and raises.

  • Overtime is never mandatory, refusing doesn’t affect performance evaluations, and voluntary overtime has better pay and health protections.

  • A transparent process by which management and workers can hold each other accountable without fear of retaliation to seek justice for all workers, especially those who hold marginalized identities.

  • Our culture & policies prioritize DEI in every level of decision making & support under-represented groups, so we can build the most diverse and equitable AAA game studio in the country.

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