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Activision Blizzard workers group announces strike fund, begins unionization effort

A strike fund is growing quickly

Activision Blizzard employees stage a walkout in the response from company leadership to a lawsuit highlighting alleged harassment, inequality Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

A group of Activision Blizzard workers officially announced a strike fund Thursday morning following two days of walkouts in support of quality assurance employees and a press conference detailing the company’s alleged “alcohol-soaked culture” of harassment.

The group, called ABK Workers’ Alliance, came together in July after California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit preceded by a two-year investigation into the company’s alleged “frat boy culture.” Activision Blizzard workers are not officially unionized, which means that the strike, initiated Thursday, will not have union protections. The group is being assisted by the Communication Workers of America, the Washington Post reported. Employees began signing union cards Thursday in an effort to get the group recognized, according to the report. It’s unclear how many workers are participating in the strike, which has been ongoing since Monday. More than 1,700 contracted workers and employees signed a petition in November demanding that CEO Bobby Kotick resign.

Management told workers they’ll no longer be paid for walking out, according to the Washington Post, which is where the strike fund comes in.

In a statement published on GoFundMe, where they are raising money for a strike fund, ABK Workers’ Alliance leaders said Activision Blizzard leadership has only continued to ignore workers’ demands. “These, and many other events have caused an alliance of Activision-Blizzard employees to initiate a work stoppage until demands are met and worker representation is finally given a place within the company,” the ABK Workers’ Alliance representation wrote.

The strike fund is approaching $20,000 from more than 300 donations in just over two hours. The goal is $1 million.

Some QA workers at Activision Blizzard and its subsidiaries have walked out of work each day since Monday, in protest of layoffs last week. (Activision Blizzard doesn’t characterize these job losses as layoffs, however: The company said that these people were temporary contract workers, not employees, and that it was not renewing their contracts.) Activision Blizzard is in the process of converting 500 temporary jobs to full-time status, the company said — though the group of Raven Software QA workers were not part of that initiative.

“We are all disposable to this company,” one striking worker told Polygon. “We need to band together or we will never get anywhere. [...] If I lose my job due to unionizing, fine, but I’d rather make this place worth working here.”

Activision Blizzard workers have walked off the job twice before — first when the lawsuit was officially filed, and later when the Wall Street Journal published a report detailing Kotick’s involvement in suppressing allegations.

The video game industry has been moving slowly toward unionization over the past few years, but no company in the United States has become officially recognized. Last year, a group of workers that write for mobile app Lovestruck: Choose Your Romance banded together for a 21-day strike — and won. It was the first successful game worker strike in the industry history.

Video game companies are alleged to have long profited off their workers, whom they often hire on temporary contracts and leave vulnerable to mistreatment. Video game workers report working long hours — sometimes up to 70- to 100-hour weeks during extreme crunch times — on top of the industry’s history of racist and sexist work culture.

Neither ABK Workers’ Alliance nor Activision Blizzard have responded to Polygon’s requests for comment.

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