Employees and contractors at Activision Blizzard are walking out of work today in support of their colleagues at Raven Software. The protest, the third such work stoppage to hit the company since it was sued by California over sexual harassment allegations in July, comes after Raven, one of the studios that supports Activision's incredibly popular Call of Duty franchise, laid off 12 quality assurance contractors. The action started on Monday when 60 workers at Raven Software, including both full-time employees and contractors, left work to protest the surprise terminations. The protest has no planned end date, a first for the walkouts at Activision Blizzard. Those involved in the action are demanding the publisher hire all QA contractors, including those who lost their jobs on Friday, as full-time employees.
The management at Raven Software, the Activision Blizzard subsidiary that develops Call of Duty games, has reportedly been trying to convince its employees to vote against unionization. According to The Washington Post, the Raven management has been sending out messages and holding town hall meetings ahead of the election deadline on May 20th. During a meeting held on April 26th, company leadership suggested that unionization might not only impede game development, but also affect promotions and benefits. After that meeting, The Post says management sent employees an email with a message that's more direct to the point: "Please vote no." The Raven employees the publication talked to said the company's efforts were ineffective, though, and that they still voted yes for unionization.
A group of 21 quality assurance testers at Raven Software have received the blessing of the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a union vote, per a 27-page ruling from the agency released Friday. Raven's parent company -- Activision Blizzard --did not respond in time to a request for voluntary recognition for the new union, the Game Workers Alliance, back in January. Tensions within the company came to a head last December, when approximately a third of the group's QA testers were suddenly laid off -- after several months of promises to improve compensation. Raven workers began organizing shortly thereafter, and engaged in a weeks-long strike. Once they returned to work, however, they were informed their unit would be broken up.
Fortnite developer Epic Games confirmed this weekend it will transition most of its US-based contingent workers to full-time positions with benefits. The news comes after The Verge obtained an internal memo detailing the company's plans. Epic spokesperson Elka Looks said the studio plans to hire "a few hundred" existing contractors, and that most of those workers currently serve as quality assurance testers. Epic will directly employ those individuals and they'll have access to the company's benefits plan. Looks also noted the company will still hire contingent workers to fill "short-term needs," and the memo The Verge obtained said Epic would not extend the full-time employment offer to some workers.
Activision Blizzard had until 6PM ET on January 25th to voluntarily recognize Game Workers Alliance, a group of Raven Software employees that recently gathered the votes to unionize, backed by Communications Workers of America. That deadline passed without recognition from Activision Blizzard, and Raven employees will now move forward with plans to file for a union election through the National Labor Relations Board. "At Activision Blizzard, we deeply respect the rights of all employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said. "We carefully reviewed and considered the CWA initial request last week and tried to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have led to an expedited election process. Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement."