Communication Workers of America (CODE-CWA), the union assisting Raven Software QA employees in their push to unionize themselves as Game Workers Alliance, is calling for the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to scrutinize Activision Blizzard's decision to reorganize Raven Software's QA department just days after they announced their decision to unionize.
According to Polygon's Nicole Carpenter, Raven Employees returning to work yesterday were greeted with the news that they would no longer be siloed within a single QA department. They would instead be embedded across other departments at the company.
Raven CEO Brian Raffel wrote in said e-mail that the organizational changes had been in the works since November, and were engineered to "foster tighter integration and cooperation across the studio."
Even though Activision Blizzard reiterated to Polygon that the plan for this integration had been in the works for several months, the timing of the announcement is curious. It gets even more head-scratching when you consider Raffel's statement that the studio did this as part of a plan to make its temporary QA staffers full-time employees, but this whole mess with Raven Software QA began with a number of layoffs of temporary QA workers.
It's not clear if this organizational shift would interfere with efforts by Raven QA workers to unionize. CODE-CWA however, argues that the move is "nothing more than a tactic to thwart Raven QA workers who are exercising their right to organize."
"When management uses meaningless buzzwords like ‘alignment, ‘synergy,’ and ‘reorganization,’ they are sending a message to workers: ‘we make all the decisions, we have all the power,'" the union added. "Workers organize to have a voice at work to rectify these power imbalances. This is why big tech mergers that could increase and further concentrate corporate power, like Microsoft’s proposed Activision Blizzard acquisition, deserve real oversight."
The start-and-stop improvements for temporary Activision Blizzard workers have been somewhat confusing over the last few months. In November, the company announced improved benefits for temp workers, just a few months after a Kotaku report described negative conditions for them across different branches of the company.
Said report, and worker pressure, apparently prompted the California DFEH to include temporary workers as part of the group it was advocating for in its lawsuit.
Even if Activision Blizzard's actions here aren't ideologically-driven union busting, the inopportune timing and bungled policy rollouts feel like extensions of the same issues that brought so much legal action down on the company.
Organizers at A Better ABK have called for better transparency and worker representation in big decisions, but management's continued opaqueness, combined with a dedication to treating workers as spreadsheet assets, will make situations like this look bad even if there is good intent.
And given all that's happened since the original lawsuit, that is a very, very big "if."