U.S. Labor Prosecutors have determined that Activision Blizzard Inc. illegally threatened staff and enforced social media policies that violate workers’ rights.
US labor prosecutors have determined that Activision Blizzard Inc. illegally threatened staff and enforced social media policies that violate workers’ rights, a government spokesman said. The finding is a setback for the company as it tries to fend off a union effort and a $68.7 billion sale to Microsoft Corp.
Unless Activision settles, the Los Angeles-based regional director of the National Labor Relations Board will file a complaint, agency press secretary Kayla Blado said Monday. The NLRB enforces the National Labor Relations Act, the New Deal law that lays down workers’ collective action and organizational rights.
Activision denied wrongdoing. “These allegations are false,” company spokesman Jessica Taylor said in an emailed statement. “Employees can and will speak freely about these workplace issues without retaliation, and our social media policies expressly include the NLRA rights of employees.”
The labor council is set to vote Monday in an election of about 21 employees at Activision’s Raven studio in Wisconsin that could gain a rare foothold for organized labor in the video game industry.
The allegations in the labor council case were filed with the agency last September by the Communications Workers of America, the same union that organizes itself at Raven. CWA, which in recent years has increasingly focused on organizing non-union workers in the technology and video game industries, said in an emailed statement at the time that it was “deeply inspired by the courage” of Activision employees. and that it is up to the agency to ensure that violations by the company “do not go unanswered”. In an emailed statement on Monday, Tom Smith, director of CWA, said the labor officials’ finding underscored the need for Activision’s CEO to change course: “To restore confidence at Activision, Bobby Kotick must highway and instead start listening to employees to do everything possible – including breaking the law – to silence them.”
Activision, the game entertainment giant behind Call of Duty, has had a tumultuous year. Last summer, it was hit by an explosive complaint from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, accusing the company of promoting a “bro culture” of sexism. Activision’s Chief Compliance Officer, who served as Homeland Security adviser to President George W. Bush, called those claims “factually false, old and out of context.” Workers there moved to unionize after news of job cuts in December 2021, which preceded weeks of strikes. In January, Activision agreed to the deal with Microsoft.
Complaints filed by the regional directors of the Labor Board are heard by agency judges, whose rulings are subject to appeal to NLRB members in Washington, DC, and from there to federal court. The agency may demand remedies, such as posting notices and reversing policies or penalties, but does not have the power to impose punitive damages. Jennifer Abruzzo, the General Counsel for the Labor Council appointed by President Joe Biden, has a much broader view of workers’ legal rights than her Trump-appointed predecessor. She has indicated that she will try to set new precedents on numerous issues, including how far companies can restrict employees’ social media posts.