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NLRB quashes Activision Blizzard protests over GWA Albany union vote

Update: GWA Albany said the U.S. publisher has failed to "silence" its union.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

December 1, 2022

3 Min Read
The Activision Blizzard office

Activision Blizzard's attempt to expand the upcoming Blizzard Albany union vote to include employees from other departments—as opposed to just those in the QA department actively pushing for unionization–—have been scuppered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB gave QA testers at the studio the greenlight to vote in a union election back in October, letting them proceed with their attempts to establish a recognized union under the Game Workers Alliance Albany (GWA Albany) banner.

Activision Blizzard, however, said it wouldn't voluntarily recognize the union, and in November filed two motions to suspend the vote over claims that other Blizzard Albany employees outside of the QA team should be allowed to vote on the matter to avoid a "fractured workplace."

"[Activision Blizzard] believes strongly that each of the 107 eligible employees deserves to have their votes counted, not just the 18 quality assurance testers who are important employees but make up a small fraction of the team," a company representative told Game Developer at the time.

Responding to Activision Blizzard, the NLRB has denied those attempts to expand the vote because the "petitioned-for unit of quality assurance employees (the testers) share a community of interest."

Essentially, the organization believes the QA department should be allowed to proceed with its own unionization bid due to clear, and unique, commonalities that don't necessarily apply to other departments. Although the NLRB acknowledges that game design is a joint enterprise that "requires an extraordinary degree of functional integration and contact among departments," it suggests those considerations are outweighed by other community-of-interest factors.

"The testers have a separate department and separate supervision; perform a distinct function, utilizing distinct skills; and have notably lower wages than the excluded employees," reads the NLRB decision.

"Furthermore, the evidence of interchange—four permanent transfers and two temporary work assignments—does not represent the type of 'periodic' and 'two-way' transfers that 'may suggest blurred departmental lines and a truly fluid work force with roughly comparable skills.'

"Finally, although the petitioned-for and excluded employees are organized into 'feature groups' that work together to develop and test specific game features, we do not view these feature groups as constituting the Employer’s primary administrative structure."

Responding to the news on social media, GWA Albany said that Activision Blizzard's "bitter attempt to silence our union has failed," and said it is now waiting for a new election date. "We look forward to the impending ballot count without interruption," added the group.

Game Developer has reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment.

Update: An Activision Blizzard spokesperson has told Game Developer the company still believes every member of Blizzard Albany deserves the right to vote, despite the NLRB deciding otherwise.

"We still believe our entire Albany team should have the right to vote," they said. "This is about fundamental fairness for every member of the team, given the close, collaborative way that Blizzard Albany operates, and ensuring that every employee has the right to choose."

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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