Hours after announcing that it would convert more than 1,000 temporary and contract QA employees to full-time and offer a minimum wage of $20 an hour, Activision Blizzard states that Raven Software QA employees will not be part of that deal. According to an report of Bloomberg, the QA testers at Raven Software, which recently organized themselves as the Game Workers Alliance, won’t be able to take advantage of the new wage floor – something Activision Blizzard didn’t announce in advance when it sent the first news to the media. Excluding organizing employees from company-wide benefits appears to be Activision Blizzard’s latest move against the burgeoning labor movement within the company.
In a statement to The edge, Activision Blizzard Spokesperson Jessica Taylor Confirmed Bloomberg‘s findings, saying:
“All QAs at Raven are full-time and already have access to full company benefits and are eligible to participate in the company’s bonus program. Due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, we are unable to initiate new compensation initiatives at Raven at this time as these would be new types of compensation changes.”
In addition to that statement, Activision Blizzard also gave: The edge with a copy of the email Brian Raffel, studio head of Raven Software, sent to employees.
It was announced today that all US-based TEA and temporary QA employees will be converted to FTE. This news builds on our conversions in AP studios that started in December 2021. Through direct dialogue with each other, we have improved pay, expanded benefits and provided professional opportunities to attract and retain the world’s best talent.
As part of today’s news, those Activision QA teams will receive an increase in minimum hourly rates. In addition, when the conversions happen, those QA employees will have access to full company benefits and will be eligible to participate in the company’s bonus program, just as our Raven QA teams already have. Due to our legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act, we are currently prohibited from making new types of compensation changes at Raven.
I encourage you to speak with a department head, manager or HR to learn more about the union, this process, or to answer specific questions about [this] news.
As always I will share more details when I can. I’m excited about what this can mean for our teams.
The email appears expertly crafted to have a chilling effect on the Game Workers Alliance’s ongoing efforts to create the company’s first union. Expressions such as “through direct dialogue with each other, we have improved pay, expanded benefits and provided professional opportunities” sends the message that the organizers’ union activities have prevented them from enjoying the benefits the company offers to others.
Since Activision Blizzard has not voluntarily recognized the union, the next step in the process is a vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). If a majority of voters decide in favor of a union, it must be recognized and negotiations must begin. That vote hasn’t happened yet, and excluding Raven QA from the company-wide QA improvements could intimidate employee organizers and witch-entertains into voting against unionization.
The Communications Workers of America (CWA), which has helped shape and advocated unions at various tech companies including Activision Blizzard, agrees. In an email, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens told: The edge†
Make no mistake, all credit to Activision Blizzard’s latest move to put all temporary and temporary QA team members into full-time jobs and a pay rise should go to the employees who organized, mobilized and spoke out.
It’s especially annoying that Activision has excluded the Raven Software QA staff who spearheaded this effort from these benefits. The company’s claim that the National Labor Relations Act prohibits them from taking on Raven workers is clearly an attempt to divide workers and undermine their attempt to form a union (Game Workers Alliance – CWA). Activision’s unfair announcement is further proof of the need for employees to have a protected voice at work. We urge Activision Blizzard to rectify this situation and respect the legally protected right of Raven QA employees to organize.
Activision Blizzard, of course, characterizes it very differently. Here’s a response to the CWA via Activision spokesperson Rich George:
The union’s claim is both false and unfair. During an election petition period, the law is known to prevent an employer from granting new types of benefits to employees who go to vote. See National Labor Relations Board v. Exchange Parts Co., 375 US 405 (1964), and related cases, for a discussion of these rules. The CWA accuses us of trying to comply with the law by pretending that the law does not exist.”
This isn’t the first potential union-breaking action Activision Blizzard has taken against its organizing Raven QA employees. Days after the Game Workers Alliance voted to create it, Activision Blizzard restructured its QA department and embedded QA employees into its department teams. By splitting the QA department into employees across multiple teams, Activision Blizzard can isolate organizers and disrupt communication and cohesion. While the process is common in the video game developer organization, the CWA said: “[This] is nothing more than a tactic to thwart Raven QA employees exercising their right to organize.”
Update, 6:11 PM ET: Added a response from Activision Blizzard to the CWA’s allegations.