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Another Activision Blizzard studio is unionizing, asks leadership to ‘follow Microsoft’s steps’

What you need to know

  • Proletariat is a studio that was acquired by Activision Blizzard earlier in 2022 and added to the Blizzard Entertainment team. 
  • Workers at Proletariat are unionizing with the Communication Workers of America, and the group includes quality assurance staff, engineers, and others. 
  • The unionizing workers are asking Activision Blizzard to follow Microsoft’s example in dealing with unions.

One more big unionization story is happening before the close of the year. 

Workers at Proletariat shared (opens in new tab) on Tuesday that 57 of studio’s quality assurance team, engineers, and others are unionizing in partnership with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Proletariat previously worked on the game Spellbreak before being acquired by Activision Blizzard back on July 1, 2022. Post-acquisition, the team has begun assisting on future World of Warcraft content.

In the announcement of the union, titled the Proletariat Workers Alliance, the workers explained they are asking for a more flexible PTO (paid time off) policy, clearer communication, an increase in opportunities, and transparency in accountability. 

The employees are also asking for Activision Blizzard leadership not to engage in union-busting like was attempted with the recently-established unions at Raven Software and Blizzard Albany (formerly Vicarious Visions). Instead, the workers note, Activision Blizzard leaders could choose to follow Microsoft’s example in dealing with unions. Microsoft is notably in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard for almost $69 billion.

“Activision leadership’s attempts to prevent its workers from joining together in a union have not only been a waste of time and money, they have caused further damage to morale and underlined the company’s reputation for creating a toxic, hostile work environment,” said CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens in a press release (opens in new tab).

“Microsoft has shown that even the largest American corporations can choose a different path and allow workers to freely and fairly choose whether or not they want union representation. It’s not too late for Activision’s leadership to change course and begin to repair the company’s public image and the relationship with their workers by recognizing the Proletariat workers’ union and committing to productive engagement at the bargaining table.”

Microsoft signed an agreement with the CWA earlier in the year, promising to remain neutral in any unionization efforts by Activision Blizzard employees. Separately, the company also promised to remain neutral if its existing employees formed unions. Most recently, over 300 Bethesda Softworks employees began the process of unionizing under Microsoft, which has remained neutral so far.

Windows Central’s take

The dominoes are falling. It’s fairly clear at this point that one of the side effects of Microsoft working to acquire Activision Blizzard is going to be an increase in unions across North American game development studios. These three are just the start, we’ll definitely see more unions at Activision Blizzard in 2023, and I won’t be surprised if something happens at Xbox Game Studios.

When I spoke to a senior QA tester at id Software who is part of the group unionizing at Bethesda Softworks, they explained that Microsoft has kept its word so far. Time will tell what happens in the future, but for now Microsoft continues to take a different path than most companies in allowing these unions, which I’m very happy to see.

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