Blizzard Albany becomes Activision Blizzard's second syndicated studio

Blizzard Albany becomes Activision Blizzard’s second syndicated studio

Activision Blizzard quality assurance officers at the company’s Blizzard Albany studio in upstate New York voted Friday to form a union. It’s the second union under Activision Blizzard, following Raven Software’s vote in May.

The group of about 20 QA workers, called Game Workers Alliance Albany, was given the go-ahead to vote in October, after which Activision Blizzard requested that the election be postponed for board review. The National Labor Relations Council rejected this request on Wednesday. As with Raven Software, Activision Blizzard wanted the entire studio to vote on the union.

Blizzard Albany’s QA workers voted ahead of the countdown, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 18 but was delayed due to inclement weather — a blizzard. Friday, the results of the elections fell: 14 “yes” votes for the union, with no votes against. There were 18 eligible voters, the NLRB said, with three disputed votes. GWA Albany, like Raven Software, is represented by Communications Workers of America – Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA).

Blizzard Albany associate test analyst Amanda Deep said in a statement that the group took inspiration from Raven Software’s QA union and that GWA Albany hopes to inspire more video game studios to unionize.

“It took an incredible amount of hard work and persistence to push this fight forward,” Deep said. “With this victory, we stand up for each other because we care deeply about our work and the games we create. Unionization has empowered us all to fight hard for the dignity and respect that every worker merit at work.

Reached for comment, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson provided the following statement to Polygon:

We’re considering all options, focusing on what’s best for all employees and delivering the best games to our millions of players. We still believe our entire Albany team should have the right to vote. It’s about fairness and basic rights for every member of the team.

GWA Albany announced its intention to unionize in July. After Friday’s vote, workers will begin preparing for contract negotiations after the results are certified by the NLRB. Raven Software’s QA union is currently in negotiations with Activision Blizzard management.

Activision Blizzard has been accused of union busting ahead of Blizzard Albany’s union election. In October, CWA filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the company after its communications director, Lulu Cheng Meservey, posted a company-wide Slack message “disparaging the union”, according to the complaint. . The post prompted numerous negative emoji reactions in Slack from employees, which Meservey acknowledged, though she called the complaint “false” in statements to the press at the time.

Blizzard Albany’s QA officers, like the rest of Blizzard Albany, focus largely on the Diablo franchise, specifically Diablo 4, scheduled to launch in 2023. Activision Blizzard used the upcoming game in its argument that all Blizzard Albany (formerly Vicarious Visions) workers should participate in the vote. Quality assurance workers are among the most vulnerable in the industry, often due to low wages and intense crisis.

“Albany Blizzard workers have never wavered in the face of adversity,” CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens said in a statement. “Instead, they have remained resilient and steadfast, which is a testament to the organization they have made to ensure QA officers are treated fairly and with respect for the work they do. QA workers at Blizzard Albany and Raven Software have elevated the conversation around unions in the video game industry, and they’ve also opened the door for other studios to organize.

Like the rest of Activision Blizzard, Blizzard Albany will be merged with Microsoft following approval of Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. If that deal were to go through, Microsoft said it would not hamper union efforts — in fact, it would remain “neutral” toward them, having signed an agreement with CWA. This agreement is expected to enter into force 60 days after the closing of the agreement.

GWA Albany is the second group to unionize under Activision and is part of a growing movement to organize the video game industry. He joins the syndicate stores of support studio BioWare Keywords Studios and indie company Tender Claws. Union interest extends beyond the video game industry and also extends to board games and tabletop games. This support reflects the national trend, despite a continued decline in membership.

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