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A year after Activision Blizzard’s explosive lawsuit, workers walk once again to ‘end gender inequity’

Workers are holding rallies at offices across the United States and online

Image of green grid and shapes with the words Activision Blizzard superimposed over the top Illustration: James Bareham/Polygon
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.

One year after Activision Blizzard’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) lawsuit was publicized, workers are walking out once again to “end gender inequity” at the company. Hundreds of workers are expected to participate in the protest, gathering at Activision Blizzard offices California, Texas, Minnesota, and New York, as well as online.

Protests kicked off at 10 a.m. EST in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, before rolling out in Colonie, New York; Austin; and Irvine, California.

Activision Blizzard’s battle between its workers and its corporate management has been well-publicized over the past year — there have been multiple walkouts, resignations, calls for CEO Bobby Kotick to leave, and more lawsuits and investigations. And then there’s Microsoft’s proposed $68.9 billion acquisition and two newly unionized groups of workers under the World of Warcraft and Call of Duty publisher. Workers at the studio are passionate as ever about supporting their cause, heading into the Thursday walkout with a new set of demands for the company.

The full list of demands is laid out on the ABK Workers Alliance website:

1. All ABK employees must have the option to choose fully remote work. For positions which are impossible to operate outside of a physical office (such as facilities), employees must have the option to relocate to an office in a safe state or country.

2. All ABK Employees currently residing in locations passing discriminatory legislation must be offered relocation assistance to a safe state or country. Stipends for out of state medical care currently leaves employees open to legal prosecution and does not remove workers from imminent danger.

3. ABK must provide Cost of Living adjustments to the compensation of employees who relocate to a safe state or country to avoid discriminatory legislation. This will ensure that comparably higher costs of living in safe locations does not prevent employees from taking advantage of these relocation measures.

4. ABK must ensure that our health insurance partner continues to cover transgender and reproductive healthcare, including abortion. For employees that must travel to receive this life saving healthcare, ABK must cover ALL travel expenses. This will ensure that these procedures are affordable and logistically possible regardless of their location.

5. Management must immediately and transparently enact plans to allow relocation from locations which are passing anti-abortion, anti lgbtq+, or any other demonstrably discriminatory legislation. This and our above demands will ensure that no worker must compromise their safety for their livelihood.

6. Employees must be included in the audit/report requested by shareholders to make sure that our sexual harassment audit was conducted fairly and exhaustively. This will ensure that our employees are protected and supported in the case of future harassment.

7. ABK leadership must agree to hold regular meetings with members of the worker led Committee Against Sex and Gender Discrimination. This will ensure an open dialogue between employees and management to foster a safer and more welcoming workplace.

8. ABK must sign a labor-neutrality agreement like Microsoft did, so we can all freely organize a union now and bargain things like this in a legally binding contract.

Some of the demands are in direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last month, allowing state governments outlaw abortion. In response to the decision, some states have banned the procedure — leaving people in these states in a vulnerable, dangerous position.

Video game companies, Activision Blizzard among them, offered statements acknowledging the decision; these ranged from outward statements of support for abortion rights to more vague comments that noted the historic nature of the decision. Activision Blizzard did not comment publicly on its social media, instead providing comment to press through a spokesperson:

Maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all is a top priority for Activision Blizzard and includes supporting the physical and mental well-being of everyone who works here, including their dependents. Earlier in June, we announced our expanded medical travel benefits to include coverage for U.S. employees and their dependents who participate in our medical plans and live in areas where access to medical care, including reproductive health, gender-affirming treatment, transplant care, and any other medical care covered by our plans that is not available in a covered person’s state, or within 100 miles of where they live.

The demands are also in response to an increase in anti-trans violence and legislative attacks on trans people. Activision Blizzard workers are asking for protections for transgender and reproductive healthcare, as well as relocation support for workers in areas with anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

“This and our above demands will ensure that no worker must compromise their safety for their livelihood,” workers wrote.

ABK Workers’ Alliance last demand requires Activision Blizzard to match the labor neutrality agreement Microsoft entered in June. In it, Microsoft said it would not deter Activision Blizzard employees acquired in the Microsoft deal from unionizing after signing a deal with the Communications Workers of America. Following the deal, CWA president Chris Shelton announced that the union supports the Microsoft and Activision Blizzard merger.

In response to the walkout and worker’s demands, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Polygon the company supports “the right of our employees to express their views and values in a safe, responsible way, without fear of retaliation.”

It continued:

There are numerous ways they can do so publicly or confidentially.

Our leadership team remains focused on ensuring we are the very best place to work. This includes ensuring gender equity throughout the company and comprehensive access to reproductive and other healthcare services for every employee.

Update (July 22): Following the publication of this story, Activision communications consultant and representative for CEO Bobby Kotick Mark Herr sent Polygon a separate statement regarding the Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit from last year. Activision’s statement follows:

This malicious lawsuit was filed by the DFEH which has a history of filings that are “inaccurate, based on speculation, or otherwise address[ed] issues that the DFEH should not be concerned with.” That is a quote from a federal judge in one among no fewer than five separate rulings in the federal courts against DFEH.

The quote referenced above is from an order by Judge Dale S. Fischer in March, after the DFEH moved to block the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s settlement with Activision Blizzard. Fischer said in a court order that the DFEH’s objections to that settlement were “inaccurate, based on speculation, or otherwise address[ed] issues that the DFEH should not be concerned with.”

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