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Activision Blizzard won't recognize Raven Software union, will reorganize QA workers [update]

Raven Software Activision Blizzard
Raven Software Activision Blizzard (Image credit: Activision)

Updated 8:20 p.m. ET: Activision Blizzard released a statement confirming it won't be recognizing the union.

What you need to know

  • Activision Blizzard has not responded to Raven Software QA workers' call to unionize by the deadline Tuesday evening.
  • The company also announced its plan to reorganize the QA team across multiple departments following the unionization announcement.
  • QA union members will now file for a union election.

Activision Blizzard has not responded to Raven Software QA workers' request to unionize Tuesday, meaning the union is set to file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This comes on the heels of a reorganization of the company's QA department, which was conveyed to workers on Monday, according to Polygon.

The Washington Post reported the news on the union deadline, adding that the union can file with the NLRB. Once that goes through, Activision Blizzard needs to start bargaining with the union in earnest.

It's been a few days since Raven Software QA workers announced it would be planning to unionize into the Game Workers Alliance after ending a seven-week-long strike last week. The strike was in recognition of the QA contractors who were laid off in December.

This would be the first video game union at a major publisher in North America (workers from Vodeo Games organized the first union in the industry late last year). The Communications Workers of America (CWA) worked with the ABetterABK workers alliance, the group that formed immediately following the toxic workplace lawsuit.

On Monday, Activision notified QA workers that it would be reorganizing. Instead of a dedicated QA department, it would be spreading them out among the different departments.

"This change will enhance the collaborative work our teams do to support our games and players and make the opportunities for our talented QA staff even stronger," a spokesperson told Polygon.

While Polygon reports that the embedded model is common at the company, the CWA claims it's an anti-union tactic.

"When Management uses meaningless buzzwords like 'alignment, 'synergy,' and 'reorganization,' they are sending a message to workers: 'we make all the decisions, we have all the power,'" the CWA tweeted today. "Whether it's covering up sexual harassment, employee surveillance, workplace abuse or violating workers rights, Activision Blizzard seems determined to take the low road." You can read the full statement in the thread below.

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We've reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment and will update if we hear back.

Raven Software, known for its work on the Call of Duty series, is one of many companies that are a part of Microsoft's nearly $70 billion Activision Blizzard acquisition.

Update: Activision Blizzard won't recognize union

In a statement to Polygon, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson confirmed that the company won't be voluntarily recognizing the union, noting that while it "deeply" respects the rights of employees to unionize, it could not reach an agreement.

You can read the full statement below:

At Activision Blizzard, we deeply respect the rights of all employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union. We carefully reviewed and considered the CWA initial request last week and tried to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have led to an expedited election process. Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement.We expect that the union will be moving forward with the filing of a petition to the NLRB for an election. If filed, the company will respond formally to that petition promptly. The most important thing to the company is that each eligible employee has the opportunity to have their voice heard and their individual vote counted, and we think all employees at Raven should have a say in this decision.Across the company, we believe that a direct relationship between managers and team members allows us to quickly respond and deliver the strongest results and opportunities for employees. As a result of these direct relationships, we've made a number of changes over the past couple years including raising minimum compensation for Raven QA employees by 41%, extending paid time off, expanding access to medical benefits for employees and their significant others, and transitioning more than 60% of temporary Raven QA staff into full-time employees. We look forward to continuing a direct dialogue with our team and working together to make our workplace better.

Carli is the Gaming Editor across Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. Her last name also will remind you of a dinosaur. Follow her on Twitter or email her at carli.velocci@futurenet.com.

10 Comments
  • No surprise.
    They're going to run out the clock.
  • BTW, it is technically wrong to describe the QA workers as a union. They need recognition by either Raven or the NLRB *first* to actually be a union and acquire the legal rights of a union. If they ever get recognized then tbey have to schedule a vote across the relevant unit. (And if Raven does reorg, the unit will be most of Raven, not the 30 person QA staff. Most of those are $80K average salaried employees looking forward to MS which averages $120K for developers.) After the vote, either side can challenge and draw out the fight. Look to the Amazon fight in Alabama: two years and counting. (And half the voters in the redo vote are new. Its a high turnover unit they are fighting over.) They're not a union just by saying so and it can't be "union busting" until they are recognized, hold a vote, and are certified. Headlines are one thing, labor law something else. And labor law for decades has only helped *existing* unions. As I said, Activision is running out the clock. Bad PR no longer matters to them. Their name is already mud so they're rolling with it. Once the deal closes all of Activision *will* be reorganized and there *will* be firings, but not of developers. Any one of those leaving will be long gone. And the most disposable, union or not, will be QA workers in an At-Will state. Those folk need better legal assistance. Somebody better at getting results than headlines because so far that is all they're getting.
  • Yeah, I think that's right. I wasn't sure about it but now it's obvious: Activision will be restructured and Raven will be restructured away along with the "union problem" (as I'm sure management is calling it). So ending the strike was not some sharp strategy, but desperation in light of the MS acquisition and likelihood of restructuring. In some ways I think this is too bad. Unionization might help the gaming industry with its bad reputation for being a crap place to work. Having a nice place to work free of management-condoned BS is not a small thing for anyone involved.
  • They're not all bad.
    Even Activision isn't bad all over. Remember many of their studios are scattered the world over.
    I doubt King runs the same as Treyarch.
    Or Barrie, Shanghai, Holland, etc.
    Even in the US different units face different conditions.
    Odds are MS can fix things pretty fast.
  • First and foremost Unions are bad just look at the auto industry. Cars in the 1980's were less than $20K but now they are $50K+. Unions had their place in the 1920's and 1930's when there wasn't a lot of worker protection, but today there are plenty of laws protecting employee's. I for one would not want to spend $150+ per game is the gaming industry unionizes. "When Management uses meaningless buzzwords like 'alignment, 'synergy,' and 'reorganization,' they are sending a message to workers: 'we make all the decisions, we have all the power'". Damn right businesses have all the power. You work for them not the other way around. I do not understand how an employee's today thinks their employer bends the knee to them. If I hire a landscaping company to cut my grass and they do a poor job I'm going to fire them. I business is no different. They make the rules and if you do not like them you find a new job.
  • Because simply put workers do the work, it is in the best interest for a business to keep the workers happy otherwise, as you say they can just quit and if the workers quit the business stops making money.
  • I get what you are saying, but as a developer myself I work for a business. I do not get to dictate the terms. If a person does not like it they can find another job. I do not understand why/how employees today think they can tell a business how to run their business. The employee did not start the business, put their own money into it, pay the business expenses, have their name on the side of the building, pay employees salary, and the list can go on and on. Bottom line the employee isn't entitled to anything except for what they were hired for. If the employer breaks a law then the employee would be entitled to compensation depending on the law they broke.
  • One of the reasons MS is buying studios is because good, veteran developers are in short supply. Developers unhappy with theur $80k (avg?) salaries can find employment fairly quickly.
    Also bear in mind that the people seeking union mediation aren't developers and at least *some* are contractors. That said, it is a very old story that young fresh outs move into the business world expecting to be pampered and treated as if they truly are "special". And this isn't limited to gaming. SpaceX is facing a discrimination claim from a young lady who kept approaching executives telling them how they could do their jobs so much better and kept getting ignored. And then got fired from a company where it is written policy to do annual evaluations and bulk-fire the bottom ten percent. Makes you wonder, no?
    You ever hear the term "Mary Sue" relating to fiction?
    Some people are solipsists. 😏
  • "They make the rules and if you do not like them you find a new job.", that does not help much if about every company does it (in certain sectors). Especially if the sector mostly exists of a few large companies (which is only getting worse).
  • The gaming sector does *not* involve just a few companies. There are literally hundreds of successful independent studios out there. Thousands globally. Just look at the catalogs at Google Play, Apple Store, Steam, Epic Store, Gamepass, and XBOX store and look at the developers.
    There is more to gaming than consoles and even in consoles there is far more than the big multinational *publishers*