After Activision Blizzard refused to voluntarily recognize the union formed by QA testers at Raven Software — a subsidiary that works on the Call of Duty games — the testers went through the election process and voted to form a union last month. Now, Activision Blizzard’s current CEO Bobby Kotick told employees in a letter that the company recognizes the union and will “engage in good faith negotiations to enter into a collective bargaining agreement.”
Getting here comes after news of layoffs late last year, followed by an employee walkout and a five-week strike. There was also the part where Activision Blizzard engaged in tactics that smelled of union busting, like suddenly converting other testers in the company to full-time jobs with benefits and pay bumps that the Raven testers didn’t get as well as spreading their roles out across the company, which is just one small part of employee backlash that has occurred within Activision Blizzard over the last year.
The rest of the text in Kotick’s letter is below. After the vote passed with 19 out of 22 votes (two ballots were challenged), the company was out of easy options to continue avoiding this. Still, an alternate route included the one Amazon is taking in response to a union vote in one of its warehouses, where it is contesting the vote, in a process that may delay the start of negotiations for years.
Meanwhile, Microsoft, which is in the process of attempting to acquire Activision Blizzard, recently publicly adopted principles for employee organizing. The principles included a line saying, “We are dedicated to maintaining a close relationship and shared partnership with all our employees, including those represented by a union” — without specifically guaranteeing much.
I wanted to share the news that we will begin negotiations with the Communications Workers of America related to the 27 quality assurance employees at Raven Software, the majority of whom have chosen to be represented by this union. With the election having concluded, we will engage in good faith negotiations to enter into a collective bargaining agreement.
While first labor contracts can take some time to complete, we will meet CWA leaders at the bargaining table and work toward an agreement that supports the success of all our employees, that further strengthens our commitment to create the industry’s best, most welcoming and inclusive workplace, and enhances our ability to deliver world class games for our players.
We begin this process after major investments in our QA team members over the past couple years, including significantly increasing starting pay for QA specialists and converting over 1,100 U.S.-based temporary and contingent QA workers to full-time positions. This conversion is providing access to comprehensive company benefits for QA employees and their eligible dependents. In addition, we have expanded access to performance bonuses for QA employees and learning and development opportunities. We also have integrated QA more seamlessly into the game development process, increasing collaboration that results in better products for our players and more opportunities for our teams.
This is a time of great opportunity for our company. I want to thank you for the passion, skill, and commitment you bring each day to create great games, to embrace opportunities to make this the industry’s very best place to work, and to connect and engage our players around the world.