In a recent complaint before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Activision Blizzard was found to have illegally retaliated against unionized workers. The company was found to have withheld raises from unionized workers that were granted to non-unionized workers, which the NLRB found constituted illegal retaliation. Activision Blizzard, for its part, denies that it engaged in any wrongdoing, and says it was merely following the law by not granting raises during a labor dispute.
What is Activision Blizzard?
Activision Blizzard is one of the largest video game publishers in the world, with an annual revenue of nearly $9 billion. The company publishes many of the most popular gaming franchises in America, including Call of Duty, Diablo, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch. The company has been mired in a number of scandals due to its shady labor practices, including allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct and discrimination, as well as allegations of attempting to suppress labor organizing.
What Did Activision Blizzard Do?
Activision Blizzard has, according to the NLRB, illegally retaliated against quality assurance (QA) workers at Raven Software, a Wisconsin-based subsidiary. The company refused to grant raises to these QA workers, who voted in May to form the Game Workers Alliance (GWA), the first union ever organized at a major U.S. gaming company. However, raises were given to the non-unionized QA workers at the company, which the NLRB said was illegal.
Why Was This Illegal?
In its ruling, the NLRB said that the failure to grant raises to the unionized workers constituted a form of retaliation, effectively punishing GWA members for exercising their legal right to organize. According to Activision Blizzard, they were simply following the National Labor Relations Act by not granting raises to employees seeking unionization during an election period. They also claimed they were in the process of negotiating compensation packages with the union. However, the NLRB did not buy it, and found the GWA’s complaint to have merit.
What Impact Could This Have?
In the immediate term, the primary impact is that the GWA will have additional leverage against Activision Blizzard in their contract negotiations. It could also have a negative effect on a pending deal with Microsoft, who has sought to acquire Activision Blizzard in a purchase agreement valued at close to $70 billion. It also comes at a time when the company struggles with other legal woes, like an investigation by the California Attorney General into their labor practices, which could place any acquisition deal in jeopardy.
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