Raven’s QA workers’ winning the right to unionize was a short-lived victory; in the days since returning from their strike, Activision announced plans to split everyone up, and then revealed a larger strategy that’s aimed at crushing this movement before it’s allowed to take hold.
There are those still operating under the delusion these are simply coincidences, that all that shuffling around is just regular corporate stuff, not explicitly aimed at halting the QA team’s unionisation efforts. I know you’re out there, you’ve messaged me about this! But you should read this message posted on an internal Slack by Activision’s Vice President of Quality Assurance Chris Arends.
The message was shared by ABetterABK founder and organizer Jessica Gonzalez, and reads:
That’s a lot, and it begins relatively harmlessly, so I’ll excerpt the stuff where he starts taking some real shit:
We heard that the union will protect employees and provide employees with job security?
Job security here at ABK rests with our ability to produce epic entertainment for our fans. A union doesn’t do anything to help us produce world-class games, and the bargaining process is not typically quick, often reduces flexibility, and can be adversarial and lead to negative publicity. All of this could hurt our ability to continue creating great games. While many union contracts include a “just cause” provision and a grievance process, this is really just a different way to deal with disciplinary issues. Even union contracts with “just cause” and grievance procedures still allow companies to enforce disciplinary rules, and CWA members are disciplined and terminated even with these so-called protections.
How do you compare bargaining with a union to a direct relationship with the company in terms of changes for an individual employee?
In a direct relationship model, where you and the company share goals, agreement is quick, and the company can swiftly make changes. In a bargaining model, agreement and change comes quickly only where the union has the exact same goals and also has no additional goals that it would rather insist on. It often takes months or years to come to a collective bargaining agreement. A unionized company cannot act quickly on its own if the union does not agree with its position. In both situations, the company remains free to disagree and maintain a different position.
The words, “A union doesn’t do anything to help us produce world-class games,” are going to be sticking in my mouth for days. That’s how disconnected these men and women at the top of Activision are, how driven they are solely by profits and lines going up, how unconcerned they are with things like the well-being of their workers.
Since Activision Blizzard hasn’t released a “world-class game” in years, my man, maybe this will help. And maybe consider that, you know, you might be able to release world-class games again if the people actually making them feel safe and secure in their employment, and aren’t being harassed or talked shit to by management?