Workers at World of Warcraft studio Proletariat withdraw union petition

As the two unions under Activision Blizzard move toward contract negotiations, a third subsidiary studio has begun organizing. Workers working in Boston World of Warcraft support studio Proletariat, like Raven Software and Blizzard Albany before them, attempted to unionize under the Communications Workers of America. The workers announced their application in late December, but withdrew the application on Tuesday.

A representative of the Communications Workers of America issued the following statement:

CWA has withdrawn its request for representation elections at Activision Blizzard’s Proletariat studio. Unfortunately, Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak chose Activision Blizzard’s path and responded to workers’ desire to unionize with confrontational tactics. Like many founders, he took workers’ concerns as a personal attack and held a series of meetings that demoralized and disempowered the group, making a free and fair election impossible.

As we’ve seen in Microsoft’s Zenimax studio, there’s another way that empowers workers through a free and fair process without being intimidated or manipulated by the employer. We will continue to advocate with workers in the video game industry for better working conditions, higher standards and a union voice.

Once the appeal is withdrawn, the Proletariat workers will not vote for the union.

“We appreciate CWA’s decision to unilaterally withdraw its petition in response to employee feedback,” Vice President of Media Relations Joe Christinat said in a statement to Polygon. “As we said, we welcome the opportunity for every employee to express their preferences in a secure manner through a secret ballot. Our team at Proletariat does extraordinary work every day. They remain focused on working with their team to continue to make Proletariat a place where everyone can grow, thrive and be part of an amazing team and culture.

Dustin Yost, a software engineer for Proletariat, said in a statement through the CWA that initially the majority of workers supported the union. The worker said that the support was affected by “meetings that characterized the conversation as a personal betrayal” with management. “While we withdraw our union petition today and truly hope that management prioritizes the concerns that drive us to organize, I still believe that a union is the best way for workers in our industry to ensure that our voices are heard.” Yost said.

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The Proletariat Workers Alliance cited the company’s current paid time off plan as top priorities, as well as flexible telecommuting options, health benefits and ensuring transparency and diversity.

“Our top priority remains our employees, and we appreciate the contributions of the talented Proletariat team since joining Blizzard this summer,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Polygon when the petition was filed. “We received the petition over the holidays and will respond to the NLRB next week.”

“Many of us at Proletariat and our peers in the industry love our jobs,” Yost, Proletariat’s chief engineer, told Polygon in early January, before the application was withdrawn. “We at Proletariat care a lot about our team. We want to make sure we have a real say in our future to positively impact our company for the benefit of our team, our company, and everyone who enjoys the content we create. The goal here is to treat each other properly.”

The Proletarian Workers Alliance was scheduled to go to a vote with the National Labor Relations Board—the same process that both Raven Software and Blizzard Albany’s QA unions went through. Activision Blizzard contested the election at both studios and tried to keep the proposed deal section out of QA testers.

Companies sometimes fight to expand unit size to reduce union organizing efforts, making it more likely that a union vote will fail. But an NLRB ruling in 2022 made it easier for organizers to incorporate small groups within a company (micro-units), which puts the onus on a company to provide substantial evidence that the group should be opened.

The CWA has filed multiple unfair labor complaints against Activision Blizzard for alleged union-busting tactics; Activision Blizzard representatives denied any wrongdoing.

Seth Sivak founded Proletariat in 2012, and the studio operated independently, working on games such as Spellbreak and StreamLegends Until Activision Blizzard acquires the studio in 2022. Sivak is now Blizzard Entertainment’s vice president of development and currently oversees Boston-based studio Proletariat. World of Warcraft. Allison Brown, a software engineer at Test, told Polygon that union talks began before the buyout, but around the buzz of working with the company.

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“We were worried that suddenly being part of a bigger organization that we might lose some of the things that made Proletariat special,” Brown said.

He continued: “However much faith we have in the leadership […], things can change. I started in the industry 14 years ago and have been laid off more than once. I have seen the benefits change and get worse. There is no control over it. But if we bargain collectively, if we get them in writing, there are mechanisms in place for us to have a voice.”

After the petition was announced, the Proletariat leadership published a blog in which it refused to recognize the Proletariat union and forced the union to vote with the National Labor Relations Board. The proletariat leadership described the company as “pro-worker” and stated that some workers had concerns, so the management wanted to hold a vote.

The Proletariat Workers Alliance argued that not recognizing the vast majority of signed union cards was anti-union. “Their actions this week are out of the union-busting playbook used by Activision and many others,” the workers said in a statement. “Management held a town hall last week that disappointed many of our employees. “The meeting was inappropriate because of its anti-union influence.”

The workers continued: “If we want union, we can decide for ourselves. We do not need the help of management. We need and deserve respect and neutrality. We want to do the right thing by our team and cooperate with undisputed leadership. We can help the Proletariat to be the best by supporting each other.”

Activision Blizzard’s response to previous unionization efforts conflicted with Microsoft’s so-called labor neutrality agreement. The agreement signed with the CWA means that Microsoft will not interfere with organizing efforts at the company — neither current Microsoft employees nor Microsoft’s potential as part of its $68.7 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard (currently subject to Federal Trade). with employees joining as Commission claim).

That deal was put to the test late last year when QA staff at ZeniMax Media, responsible for franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Doom and Fallout, announced their intention to unionize. Microsoft agreed to recognize the union after a quick vote outside the NLRB; the company was able to bypass a lot of bureaucracy thanks to the neutrality treaty. ZeniMax QA employees voted through union authorization cards and an online portal, where the vast majority of employees pledged their support for the union.

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Update (January 9): This story has been updated to include a comment from Activision Blizzard.

Update (January 10): On Monday, the Proletariat leadership published a blog in which it refused to recognize the Proletariat union and forced the union to vote with the National Labor Relations Board. The proletariat leadership characterized the company as “pro-worker”.

The Proletariat Workers Alliance argued that not recognizing the vast majority of signed union cards was anti-union. “Their actions this week are out of the union-busting playbook used by Activision and many others,” the workers said in a statement. “Management held a town hall last week that disappointed many of our employees. “The meeting was inappropriate because of its anti-union influence.”

The workers continued: “If we want union, we can decide for ourselves. We do not need the help of management. We need and deserve respect and neutrality. We want to do the right thing by our team and cooperate with undisputed leadership. We can help the Proletariat to be the best by supporting each other.”

Update (January 24): Proletariat workers withdrew their union petition on January 24. This story has been updated to reflect that new information.

Update (January 24): Activision Blizzard responded to the CWA withdrawal petition:

We appreciate CWA’s decision to unilaterally withdraw its petition in response to employee feedback. As we mentioned, we welcome the opportunity for every employee to express their preferences in a secure manner through a secret ballot. Our team at Proletariat does extraordinary work every day. They remain focused on working with their team to continue to make Proletariat a place where everyone can grow, thrive and be part of an amazing team and culture.

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