Activision Blizzard is currently in discussions with QA testers at Raven, who voted to unionise earlier this year. Following the NRLB’s findings, negotiations will continue around a collective bargaining agreement. If the two parties can’t agree on terms, the NRLB could issue a complaint or take the case before a federal judge.
“It’s a very preliminary win for the union at this point. It gives them a little bit of leverage,” said former chairman of the NRLB Wilma Liebman. “It’s part of their tactics, you know, hit them wherever they can, to put pressure on the company in order to reach an agreement with them and to stop violating the law.”
Although unions can protect workers rights and increase their negotiation powers, they are often unpopular with corporations who may be required to offer additional benefits or increase wages based on discussions. As such, large corporations often attempt to discourage the formation of labour unions, however so-called union busting – such as forced meetings, spying on employees, or punishing union members – is illegal.
“Due to legal obligations under the [National Labor Relations Act] requiring employers not to grant wage increases while an election was pending, we could not institute new pay initiatives at Raven because they would be brand new kinds of compensation changes, which had not been planned beforehand. This rule that employers should not grant these kinds of wage increases has been the law for many years,” said Activision Blizzard spokesperson Rich George in a statement.
However, a labour complaint filed to the NLRB in June claims that Activision Blizzard discriminated and retaliated against both current and former Raven employees for their union activity, including methods such as layoffs, withholding benefits, and soliciting grievances.
A further complaint filed on Monday added that the company withheld raises, making it explicit that this was due to the union activity. In April – prior to the formation of the union – Activision Blizzard offered QA testers outside of Raven a pay rise to $20 an hour, which wasn’t offered to staff at Raven.
George stated that Activision Blizzard looks forward to defending its position during the litigation process, and if necessary the appeals court process.
“We just want the company to bargain in good faith, bargain a fair contract, and move past all this cheap and illegal behavior,” said Communications Workers of America secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens.
Activision declined to comment when approached by Eurogamer.
Earlier this year, we listed Activision Blizzard as number 2 on our list of 2022’s top 50 mobile game makers.