A group of 21 QA testers working at Activision Blizzard Albany have been given the green light to vote in a union election by the National Labor Relations Board. Activision Blizzard had sought to increase the number of workers voting in the union election, but the NLRB dismissed the company's argument.
Back in July, it was revealed that Albany QA workers would form a union to combat low pay and workplace discrimination. It wasn't long before Activision Blizzard was accused of attempting to stifle that union; the company has previously indicated that it prefers "active, transparent dialogue between leaders and employees" to collective bargaining action.
Now, however, as reported by the Washington Post, the 21 QA testers hoping to vote to unionize have been granted the right to do so by the NLRB. Activision Blizzard's counterargument hinged on the idea that more Albany workers (88, to be precise, who are currently working on Diablo) should be involved in the vote. The NLRB rejected that argument, however, citing the testers' lower pay in comparison to their coworkers.
If you're wondering why Activision Blizzard would want more workers involved in the union vote, it's because a larger contingent of voters could lead to a greater likelihood of the vote failing. After all, you're including a broader range of opinions, which means that many of the additional workers may well not want to unionize and could make that clear in their vote.
As well as seeking to expand the voting base of the union decision, Activision Blizzard apparently also attempted to argue that QA testers working on separate Activision Blizzard games shouldn't be part of the same union; the group of 21 includes workers on different Diablo games, as well as World of Warcraft. In response, the NLRB said that the difference between Diablo II Resurrected and Diablo IV is "one of assignment" and that it has "minimal to no impact" on the QA testers' shared experiences in the company.
Activision Blizzard has responded to this in exactly the way you'd expect
As you might have guessed, Activision Blizzard isn't over the moon about the NLRB's decision. In a Slack post shared by Jessica Gonzalez, the founder of workers' collective A Better ABK (Activision Blizzard King), Activision Blizzard CCO Lulu Meservey said the company disagrees that "a handful of employees should get to decide for everyone else" on the Diablo team's future in Albany.
Meservey also reiterated ABK's preference for "direct dialogue between company and employees" and described collective bargaining (i.e. union activity) as "comparatively slow", pointing to Bureau of Labor Statistics data supposedly showing non-union employees getting "larger pay raises" than groups represented by unions.
Gonzalez herself points out the irony of Meservey saying the company prefers "direct dialogue", even though the Discord channel in which Meservey is posting is restricted to certain posters. Washington Post reporter Shannon Liao also says that since ABK employees can't respond to Meservey in that channel, they instead responded with "negative emojis", prompting Meservey to respond that she could "hear the booing from here" and that she had "registered the disappointed dog emojis".
It remains to be seen what happens from this point onwards, but one thing's for sure: any worker attempting to unionize on Activision Blizzard's watch isn't going to meet with the company's approval for doing so. Activision Blizzard's response to the Albany QA union isn't unexpected, but it is rather disappointing. We'll bring you more on this as we get it.