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Unionization at Activision: Everything you need to know

Over the course of the last month or so, Quality Assurance (QA) staffers at Raven Software, a subsidiary of Activision, have begun fighting for their right to unionize. The move isn’t the first of its kind in the gaming industry, but something like it has never been attempted by employees at such a large company. This movement started when a large group of QA contractors at Raven Software was suddenly laid off, but much more has transpired since then, including a multiweek strike, an industry-shaking acquisition, and the semiofficial formation of a union.

This is an evolving story, one that will play out over weeks and months. Here’s everything that has happened as workers at Raven Software move to unionize.

Raven QA employees laid off

On December 3, 2021, Activision Blizzard laid off at least a dozen of its QA contractors. The move came suddenly for members of the team, some of whom had even moved to Wisconsin for their jobs. Overall, the layoffs left Raven Software’s QA department with a third of its employees gone.

Raven Software is one of Activision Blizzard’s many studios that work on the Call of Duty franchise, although it has played the largest role in developing the franchise’s battle royale title, Call of Duty: Warzone. QA testers at Raven Software who had been laid off were kept on the company’s payroll until January 28.

Raven QA team goes on strike

Just three days after a third of Raven Software’s QA contractors were suddenly laid off, another group of around 40 QA testers walked off the job. The group said that they would only return to work if the previously laid-off testers were rehired. Raven Software QA’s strike ended on January 22 as a show of good faith toward Activision Blizzard after the group’s union, the Games Worker Alliance, was formed.

Pending the recognition of our union, the Raven QA strike has ended. Unused strike funds are being stored for future organizing/strike efforts.

We'll post or retweet any GWU updates here. Appreciate all the community support throughout the strike!

— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) January 23, 2022

Microsoft moves to acquire Activision Blizzard

January 18 saw one of the largest business acquisitions in history when Microsoft, the tech giant behind Xbox, announced it intended to acquire Activision Blizzard for a mind-boggling $68.7 billion.

Despite not having been closed — the acquisition will be pending until 2023 — the purchase has rocked the games industry, as well as Raven Software’s unionization efforts. For the Activision Blizzard King Workers Alliance, a group that seeks to radically change Activision Blizzard through unionization, the acquisition didn’t change much. “We remain committed to fighting for workplace improvements and the rights of our employees regardless of who is financially in control of the company,” the group says.

We remain committed to fighting for workplace improvements and the rights of our employees regardless of who is financially in control of the company. (2/6)

— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) January 18, 2022

Raven QA employees form a union

On January 21, 34 QA staffers at Raven Software formed a union. The group asked for Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognize it, an unlikely response from the publishing giant. In the terms of its acquisition, Activision Blizzard refused to acknowledge that there were any strikes occurring at any of its subsidiaries, despite Raven Software’s staff participating in an ongoing walkout at the time.

Activision refuses to voluntarily recognize the GWA

Shortly after Raven’s QA staffers called off their strike in an act of goodwill toward Activision Blizzard, the company refused to voluntarily recognize the newly formed union. The refusal also followed a decision by Activision to reorganize the QA department, spreading QA staffers across multiple different departments rather than keeping them in one cohesive unit.

In a statement to Polygon, a spokesperson for the company said: “We carefully reviewed and considered the CWA [Communication Workers of America union] 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.”

This is a developing story and this article will be updated with any and all new information.

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