Labor experts told the Washington Post that companies often seek to increase bargaining unit size to reduce the chances of a successful union vote.
“I’m very happy and excited that we can move forward with the vote for our union,” said Amanda Laven, associate testing analyst at Blizzard Albany and a member of the new bargaining unit. “I hope Activision Blizzard will set an example for companies around the world by not engaging in further union busting and by working with us in good faith.”
Activision Blizzard uses “Diablo IV” to argue against unions
In August, Activision Blizzard lawyers made much of their case at the Blizzard Albany hearing surrounding the highly anticipated upcoming game “Diablo IV.” The upcoming dark fantasy action role-playing game, in which players fight various hellspawn, is set to release next year.
In the decision, the NLRB rejected an argument by Activision Blizzard lawyers that quality assurance testers working on different games are not in the same bargaining unit. Five of the testers are working on “Diablo II Resurrection”, 15 are working on “Diablo IV”, while one is working on “World of Warcraft”.
“The difference between ‘Diablo II Resurrection’ and ‘Diablo IV’ is an assignment that has little to no impact on the community of interest among the associated test analysts,” wrote the council’s regional director, Linda Leslie.
The NLRB notes that associate test analysts working on Diablo are paid $20.19 per hour, which represents an annual salary of $41,995 if the employees worked a full year with no weeks off. Meanwhile, employees in other departments earn between $56,250 and $175,050, with designers earning the most. The testers’ low pay helped set the group apart from the rest of the Blizzard Albany employees working on Diablo IV, according to the NLRB’s ruling.
“While we respect the NLRB process, we strongly disagree that a decision that could significantly impact the future of the entire Albany-based Diablo team should only be made. by a handful of employees,” Activision Blizzard spokesperson Rich George said in a statement. “Given our tightly integrated operations in Albany, all of our eligible non-supervisory employees there should have a voice and be allowed to vote, not just the roughly 20 union-chosen QA testers.”
The NLRB will send ballots to eligible employees on October 27. Voters in this group must return their ballots before the close of office on November 17. The count will take place by videoconference on November 18.
“About time,” said a current Blizzard Albany employee who is not a QA tester. She spoke on condition of anonymity as she was not authorized to speak to the media. “Our QA testers are some of the most talented and knowledgeable people in our business and they are severely undervalued by companies. I think all gaming workers need a union, but QA especially needs one.
Microsoft lays off employees from Xbox and wargaming simulation divisions
Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard for nearly $69 billion in an all-cash deal, pending regulatory approval. The Xbox and Windows maker previously said in June that it would respect the rights of Activision Blizzard workers to join a union.
Blizzard Albany is the second Activision Blizzard studio to attempt to unionize at the company, which is the subject of multiple sexual harassment investigations. Known for its work on franchises such as Guitar Hero and Crash Bandicoot under its former name, Vicarious Visions, the studio officially merged with Activision Blizzard in April to become Blizzard Albany. The studio’s QA department drew inspiration for its organizing campaign from Raven Software, another Activision-owned studio in Madison, Wisconsin, where on May 28, a group of QA testers under the name of the Game Workers Alliance won his candidacy to unionize. They are currently negotiating a contract.
“I think the people who said the [Game Workers Alliance] would serve as a spark for a new labor movement in games proved correct,” said a second current Blizzard Albany employee who is not a QA tester. “I hope this win helps spread that energy.”