Proletariat, an Activision Blizzard owned studio working on World of Warcraft, has withdrawn its request to unionize following “confrontational tactics” from both its parent company and current CEO.
As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, the Communication Workers of America came to the decision after realizing Activision Blizzard was making it “impossible” to hold a “fair and free election.” According to a union representative, Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak was influenced by Activision Blizzard’s anti-union stance, and began to host meetings that “demoralized and disempowered the group.”
“Unfortunately, Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak chose to follow Activision Blizzard’s lead and responded to the workers’ desire to form a union with confrontational tactics,” a union representative said. “Like many founders, he took the workers’ concerns as a personal attack and held a series of meetings that demoralized and disempowered the group, making a free and fair election impossible.
“As we have seen at Microsoft’s Zenimax studio, there is another path forward, one that empowers workers through a free and fair process, without intimidation or manipulation by the employer. We will continue to advocate alongside workers in the video game industry for better working conditions, higher standards and a union voice.”
Activision Blizzard acquired Proletariat last summer to help meet the “voracious appetite” among players for new World of Warcraft content. Following the deal, CEO Bobby Kotick stated the company had plans to hire “hundreds” more developers over the next two years to “serve the needs” of the WoW playerbase. Additionally, it was the company’s intention to fully integrate Proletariat with Activision Blizzard.
Shortly after its acquisition, however, Proletariat announced the decision to unionize. Earlier this year, the studio made news after it was revealed that its leadership refused to voluntarily recognize worker unionization efforts. Leadership instead filed for a union vote through the National Labor Relations Board, which they claimed was more fair as it would allow employees to get “all the information and various points of view.” The Proletariat Workers Alliance criticized this move, stating that leadership’s actions have not been “pro-worker” and instead have come “right out of the union-busting playbook used by Activision and so many others.”
“We can decide for ourselves if we want a union,” the Proletariat Workers Alliance statement reads. “We don’t need help from management. We need–and deserve–respect and neutrality. We want to do right by our team and collaborate with management without contention.”
The Proletariat Workers Alliance is not first union Activision Blizzard has refused to recognize. Quality assurance workers at both Raven Software and Blizzard Albany sought to have their unions recognized by leadership only to be met with the same request to go through the National Labor Relations Board. Both unions then held elections through the NLRB and ultimately won the right to unionize, despite their parent company’s claims that QA workers at each studio were not eligible for unionization.
While it is uncertain what Proletariat’s next move will be, it’s worth noting that, if Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard clears legal hurdles, it will ultimately become much easier for studios within the company to unionize. This is thanks to a labor neutrality agreement Microsoft signed last year, which will make the unionization much easier for employees to go through.
Update: Shortly after the publication of this story, a spokesperson from Blizzard reached out to provide a statement regarding Proletariat’s decision.
“We appreciate that the CWA has unilaterally decided to withdraw its petition in response to employee feedback.,” the representative wrote. “As we’ve stated, we welcomed the opportunity for each employee to safely express their preferences through a confidential vote. Our team at Proletariat does extraordinary work every day. They remain focused on continuing to make Proletariat a place where all can grow, thrive, and be part of an amazing team and culture.”
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