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Blizzard support studio workers drop union bid (updated)

Proletariat staff say the CEO held union-busting meetings.


One Activision Blizzard studio won't form a union, at least not in the near future. The Communication Workers of America (CWA) says it's withdrawing its petition for a union vote at Blizzard support studio Proletariat, which is currently working on World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. As Kotaku notes, a CWA spokesperson claims Proletariat chief Seth Sivak saw employees' unionization move as a "personal attack" and held meetings that allegedly "demoralized and disempowered" the team enough to prevent a fair election.

The pro-union group, the Proletariat Workers Alliance, said in December that it had majority support. Activision Blizzard declined to willingly recognize the union, though, forcing an election through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It's not clear how much support the vote has now, but Proletariat engineer Dustin Yost says in a statement that the union-busting meetings "took their toll."

We've asked Activision Blizzard and the CWA for comment. There are no immediate indications the CWA plans to resubmit the petition or file a complaint with the NLRB over the alleged anti-union tactics. Yost says he still feels a union is the "best way" to get industry representation.

Staff at Activision Blizzard's Albany studio and Raven Software successfully unionized last year despite accusations of anti-union tactics from the publisher. However, those campaigns were limited to quality assurance testers. Proletariat Workers Alliance hoped to unite the entire studio except for management, which was considerably more complex. According to an Axios source, some teammates felt the unionization push was too quick and didn't give them the time to understand the consequences.

This doesn't rule out a union at Proletariat or other Activision Blizzard teams. With that said, it comes as workers across the tech space seek to unionize, including at gaming giants like Microsoft's ZeniMax. Developers and testers don't feel they're getting fair working conditions, and they're increasingly willing to speak out on the subject.

Update 1/24 4:44PM ET: The CWA reiterated its stance in a statement to Engadget. Blizzard said it "appreciate[d]" the decision to withdraw the petition, and maintained that it "welcomed" the opportunity for employees to vote.