Activision Blizzard Union win is just the beginning

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Pencil in another Collective bargaining victory in the video game industry: On Monday, Microsoft and Communications Workers of America agreed to a labor neutrality agreement that will allow workers to exercise their right to unionize freely and without fear of retribution. The agreement will become effective 60 days after the completion of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

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This is an unprecedented deal for the gaming industry, which has been notoriously hostile to work teams from the very beginning. Nowhere was this more evident than at Activision Blizzard, where workers fought for months to unionize despite the company hiring new employees. union busting firms and the use of anti-worker rhetoric. The first trade union created under the auspices of the company were workers from Call of Duty developer at Raven Software, a feat they managed to accomplish with a small QA department and 19 yes votes.

Under the neutrality agreement, workers will be able to discuss union membership with their colleagues and maintain confidentiality on these matters. “If there is a disagreement between CWA and Microsoft in accordance with the agreement, both organizations will work together to reach an agreement expeditiously and will turn to an expedited arbitration process if they are unable to,” the CWA said in a statement.

The agreement, CWA President Chris Shelton said in a statement, “provides Activision Blizzard employees the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights to organize and bargain collectively” once the Microsoft acquisition is completed. In other words, Shelton continued, employees now have a seat at the table.

The CWA’s wariness about the impending merger had been building for months. In March it urged the FTC, along with 14 other organizations, to “take a close look” at the deal before closing: “Potential Microsoft takeover threatens to further undermine workers’ rights and suppress wages.” The Neutrality Agreement removes these concerns. Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement that the upcoming acquisition is the company’s “first opportunity” to apply its already established guidelines when it comes to work organizations.

Microsoft was open to unionizing employees. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer told the company’s employees would know The Raven Union, after the completion of the merger, overcame the reticence that Activision Blizzard had shown on numerous occasions in response to workers’ efforts. In addition to allegations of union bustingThis was announced in May by the National Labor Relations Board. found merit for allegations that the company threatened employees who spoke about working conditions. Activision Blizzard refused to voluntarily recognize the Raven union, forcing workers to fight for their rights legally through elections.

May, 23rd, the Quality Assurance team made history by winning this vote by forming the first AAA union in one of the largest gaming companies on the planet. Activision Blizzard’s response was negative: “We believe that a major decision that will affect the entire Raven Software studio of approximately 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees,” said WIRED spokesman Kelvin Liu.

But Activision Blizzard can no longer continue this fight. CEO Bobby Kotick sent an email to employees June 10th with the news that the company will be negotiating with communications workers of America and 27 QA employees in the division: “We will meet CWA leaders at the negotiating table and work on an agreement that supports the success of all our employees, which further strengthens our commitment to creating the industry’s best, most welcoming and inclusive workplace, and expanding our ability to deliver world-class games for our players.”

Microsoft’s willingness to work with CWA bodes well for future work organization efforts at the company, but the road to better working conditions is still a long way off. Contract negotiation is a lengthy, intensive process that requires compromise and renegotiation on behalf of both parties. Kotick maintains that the bargaining will take place in good faith, but for now the company has a legal obligation to sit down at the negotiating table. He has no choice.

However, Kotick’s pledge is “a positive step towards building an employment relationship at Activision,” CWA secretary-treasurer Sarah Steffens told WIRED. “[We] I hope, she says,[Kotick’s announcement] “This is the first of many steps towards full collaboration between Activision Blizzard management and employees to positively shape the future of Activision through a strong union contract.”

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