Activision exec tries to dissuade employees from unionizing in a leaked Slack message

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta February 1, 2022
Updated 2022/02/01 at 5:11 AM

Ever since a group of 34 Raven Software quality assurance testers voted to unionize earlier this month, the studio’s parent company, Activision Blizzard, has been taking steps that undermine that support and make it harder for workers to organize. This morning, Activision’s vice president of quality assurance, Chris Arends, sent the clearest message yet on the executives’ position on the unionization effort and (spoiler) is firmly against it.

In an internal, blocked Slack channel Monday morning, Arends asked herself six questions about the potential union and provided answers for employees from an Activision perspective, as shared on Twitter by the union organizer. Jessica Gonzalez. Employees were unable to respond to the message. Each answer diminished the benefits of unionization, but the fourth suggestion offered a more explicit dismantling of the organizing process. It reads as follows:

Have we heard that the union will protect employees and provide job security for employees?

Job security here at ABK depends on our ability to produce epic entertainment for our fans. A union does nothing to help us produce world-class games, and the negotiation process is often not quick, often reduces flexibility, and can be contradictory and lead to negative publicity. All of this could hamper our ability to continue creating great games.

The fifth response argued that union negotiation takes a long time to be effective, stating the obvious in the process: “A unionized company cannot act quickly on its own if the union does not agree with its position”. The final response reminded employees that they do not need to vote for the union when an election takes place.

On Twitter, Gonzalez called the post “sad.”

This is Activision’s latest move designed to stop the momentum of the unionization process at Raven. Just three days after employees announced they had gathered most of the signatures needed to unionize under the Game Workers Alliance name, Raven boss Brian Raffel unveiled a reorganization plan that separates the quality control department from the studio, moving employees to different teams.

Communications Workers of America, which is supporting the GWA, said on Twitter that the confusion was “nothing more than a tactic to thwart Raven’s quality control workers who are exercising their right to organize.”

Activision has also not voluntarily recognized the GWA, meaning they will have to seek a vote through the NLRB, a process that can take years. Additionally, Activision is pushing for the vote to include all Raven employees rather than just quality control workers, reducing the potential for success.

Arends’ Slack message – trying to convince employees that unions will make their work lives slower and worse – aligns with Activision’s previous tactics.

Activision Blizzard is currently the subject of intense scrutiny from many angles. GWA will be the first merger into a AAA game development studio in North America, potentially setting the stage for more organization across the industry. Additionally, Activision Blizzard is the subject of a lawsuit and multiple investigations over reports of systemic gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the studio, with incidents reportedly dating back decades.

And finally, Microsoft is in the process of buying Activision Blizzard, Raven Software and all, in a deal worth $69 billion. It will be the biggest acquisition in video game history and marks the era of industry consolidation. A day after news of the acquisition broke, Activision told the SEC that there were no unionization efforts underway at their studios, although in previous months, execs had told Raven employees to “consider the consequences“to sign union cards.

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