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On Tuesday, workers at Proletariat, the Boston-based studio Blizzard bought earlier this year to support World of Warcraft development, announced they recently filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Proletariat is the third Activision Blizzard studio to announce a union drive in 2022, but where past campaigns at Raven Software and Blizzard Albany involved the quality assurance workers at those studios, the effort at Proletariat includes all non-management workers. The 57 workers who want to form the Proletariat Workers Alliance include animators, game designers and software engineers. The group seeks representation from the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the union that helped QA staff at Raven Software and Blizzard Albany organize.
“Everyone in the video game industry knows Activision Blizzard’s reputation for creating a hostile work environment, so earlier this year, when we heard that Blizzard was planning to acquire Proletariat, we started to discuss how we could protect the great culture we have created here,” said Dustin Yost, a software engineer at Proletariat. “By forming a union and negotiating a contract, we can make sure that we are able to continue doing our best work and create innovative experiences at the frontier of game development.”
The Proletariat Workers Alliance asked Activision Blizzard to recognize their union voluntarily. “Our top priority remains our employees and we continue to believe a direct relationship with them is the most productive,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Engadget. “We value the contributions the talented Proletariat team has made since joining our company this summer. We’ve received the petition, and will be providing a formal public response to the NLRB in the coming days.”
The workers at Proletariat say they aim to preserve the studio’s “progressive, human-first” benefits, including its flexible paid time off policy and robust healthcare options. Additionally, they want to protect the studio from crunch, the practice of forcing compulsory overtime during the development of a game. They’re asking management to commit to a no-mandatory overtime policy and implement better pay and health protections for workers who agree to voluntary overtime. The Proletariat Workers Alliance says their colleagues also shouldn’t be penalized during performance reviews for not taking on extra work.
In June, Microsoft announced it would respect all unionization efforts at Activision Blizzard following the close of its $68.7 billion deal to buy the publisher. Earlier this month, the FTC sued the tech giant to block the merger.
Update 3:50PM ET: Added comment from Activision Blizzard.
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