Activision Blizzard Union’s victory is just the beginning

Pencil in another Win for collective bargaining efforts in the video game industry: On Monday, Microsoft and the U.S. Communications Workers formed a labor neutrality agreement that allows workers to activists explore their union rights freely and without fear of reprisal. The agreement takes effect 60 days after Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard ends.

It’s an unprecedented deal for the games industry, which has been notoriously hostile to worker collectives since its inception. Nowhere is this more evident than at Activision Blizzard, where workers have struggled for months to unite as the company is hiring. companies that destroy unions and use anti-worker language. The first union formed under the company’s auspices were workers from Call of Duty developer Raven Software — a feat they achieved thanks to a small QA unit and 19 “yes” votes.

Under the neutrality agreement, employees will be able to talk to their colleagues about union membership and keep those topics private. “If disagreements arise between CWA and Microsoft under the agreement, the two organizations will work together immediately to reach an agreement and will move to an expedited arbitration process if this is not possible,” the CWA said in the announcement. mine.

CWA President Chris Shelton said in a statement that the deal “provides an avenue for Activision Blizzard employees to exercise their democratic right to organize and collective bargaining” after the Microsoft acquisition closes. end. In other words, Shelton continued, employees now have a seat at the table.

The CWA’s vigil over an impending merger has been months in the making. In March, it urge the FTC, along with 14 other organizations, to “scrutinize” the deal before closing: “A potential Microsoft takeover risks further undermining workers’ rights and suppressing wages.” The neutrality agreement addresses those concerns. Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement that the impending acquisition is the company’s “first opportunity” to enforce the principles it has set out when it comes to labor organizations.

Microsoft has opened the door to employee solidarity. Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer to company employees will realize Raven’s union, after the merger was completed, underscored the caution Activision Blizzard has repeatedly shown in response to workers’ efforts. Back to the top of the accusations destroy unionsThe National Labor Relations Board said in May it merit because of allegations that the company threatened employees who talked about working conditions. Activision Blizzard refuses to voluntarily recognize Raven’s union, forcing workers to legally win their rights by voting.

On May 23, a team of quality-assured developers made history after winning that vote, forming the first AAA alliance at one of the biggest game companies on the planet. Activision Blizzard’s response was counterproductive: “We believe a significant decision that would affect the entire Raven software studio, which employs approximately 350 people, would not have been made by 19 Raven employees,” said spokesperson Kelvin. Liu told WIRED.

But Activision Blizzard can no longer continue that fight. CEO Bobby Kotick sent an email to employees June 10 with the news that the company will be negotiating with Communications workers of America and 27 QA employees in the unit: “We will meet with CWA leadership at the bargaining table and work towards an agreement that supports the success of all employees. our employees, that further strengthens our commitment to creating the best, friendliest and most inclusive workplace in the industry, while enhancing our ability to deliver world-class games for our players. ”

Microsoft’s willingness to work with CWA bodes well for future efforts to organize at the company, but the road ahead to better working conditions is still long. Contractual agreement is a lengthy, intensive process that requires compromise and iterative negotiation on behalf of both parties. Kotick states that negotiations will take place in good faith, but at this point the company is legally obligated to come forward. He has no other choice.

Still, Kotick’s promise is a “positive step toward senior industrial relations at Activision,” Sara Steffens, secretary of the CWA, told WIRED. “[We] hope,” she said,[Kotick’s announcement] is the first of many steps towards a full partnership between Activision Blizzard management and employees to positively shape Activision’s future through a strong union contract. ”

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