Workers at World of Warcraft studio Proletariat withdraw union petition

While two unions at Activision Blizzard are negotiating a contract, a third subsidiary studio has begun organizing. Workers in Boston World of Warcraft support studio Proletariat tried to unionize under Communications Workers of America before them, as did Raven Software and Blizzard Albany. The workers announced their complaint in late December, but withdrew their complaint on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the US Communications Department issued the following statement:

The CWA withdrew its request to elect representation at Activision Blizzard’s Proletariat studio. Unfortunately, Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak has chosen to follow Activision Blizzard’s lead, responding to workers’ desire to unionize with confrontational tactics. Like many organizers, he took workers’ concerns as a personal attack and held a series of meetings that demoralized and disempowered the group, making free and fair elections impossible.

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

As the petition was withdrawn, the workers of the Proletariat would not vote for the union.

“We appreciate that CWA unilaterally decided to withdraw its petition in response to staff feedback,” Vice Premier for Media Relations Joe Christinat said in a statement to the Polygon. “As we have noted, we have encouraged every employee to be able to safely express their preferences through a secret ballot. Our team at Proletariat does amazing work every day. They are focused on working with their teams 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 at Proletariat, said in a statement released through CWA that initially the majority of workers supported the union. The worker told management that “meetings that framed the conversation as a personal betrayal” undermined that support. “While we are withdrawing our union election petition today and sincerely hope that management will prioritize the issues that led us to organize, I still believe that a union is the best way for the workers in our industry to make sure our voices are heard.” Yost said.

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The Proletariat Workers Alliance considers the company’s current paid time off plan, as well as flexible remote options, health benefits and transparency and diversity to be top priorities.

“Our top priority remains our employees, and we appreciate the contributions the talented Proletariat team has made since joining Blizzard this summer,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement to 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 all industries love our jobs,” Yost, a senior engineer at Proletariat, told Polygon in early January, before the petition was withdrawn. “We at Proletariat take great care of our team. We want to make sure we have a real voice in our future to positively impact our company for the benefit of our company, our company, and those who enjoy the content we create. The goal here is to do the right thing with each other.”

The Proletariat Labor Alliance had to go to a vote with the National Labor Relations Board – a process also experienced by Raven Software and Blizzard Albany’s QA unions. Activision Blizzard challenged the election in both studios’ cases, trying to expand the proposed trade unit beyond QA testers.

Companies sometimes fight to expand the size of a union to reduce unionization efforts, increasing the likelihood that a union vote will fail. But a 2022 NLRB decision made it easier for founders to incorporate smaller groups (called micro-units) within a company, putting the onus on the company to provide evidence that the group needs to be opened.

The CWA has filed several unfair labor lawsuits against Activision Blizzard for union-busting tactics; Activision Blizzard officials denied any wrongdoing.

Seth Sivak founded Proletariat in 2012, and the studio has worked independently on games such as Spellbreak and the StreamLegends Until Activision Blizzard buys the studio in 2022. Sivak is now Blizzard Entertainment’s vice president of development, overseeing Boston-based studio Proletariat. World of Warcraft. Allison Brown, a software engineer in testing, told Polygon that union talks began before the buyout, but revolved around outcries about working with the company.

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“There was a concern that by suddenly becoming part of a larger organization we might lose some of the things that made Proletariat special,” Brown said.

He continued: “No matter how much we believe in governance […], things can change. I started working in this industry 14 years ago, and I’ve been fired several times. I’ve seen the benefits change and get worse. There is no control over it. But if we’re collective bargaining, if we get these things in writing, there are mechanisms to make sure we have a voice.”

After the petition was published, Proletariat leadership published a blog post in which it refused to recognize the Proletariat Union and forced the union to vote with the National Labor Relations Board. The leadership of the proletariat described the company as a “jobber” and said that some workers had concerns, so the management wanted a vote.

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

The workers continued: “If we want a union, we can decide for ourselves. We don’t need help from management. We need and deserve respect and neutrality. We want to do the right thing with our team and we want unquestionable cooperation with management. By supporting each other we can help the Proletariat to be the best it can be.’

Activision Blizzard’s response to previous union actions contradicted Microsoft’s so-called labor neutrality agreement. The agreement signed with the CWA means that Microsoft will not interfere in organizing activities at the corporation—both existing Microsoft workers and workers who will join Microsoft as part of its $68.7 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard (now Federal Trade). Commission claim).

That deal was tested 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 get rid of a lot of bureaucracy thanks to the neutrality agreement. ZeniMax QA workers voted through union authorization cards and an online portal, where a majority of workers 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 post refusing to recognize the Proletariat Union, forcing the union to vote with the National Labor Relations Board. The leadership of the proletariat described this company as “working”.

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

The workers continued: “If we want a union, we can decide for ourselves. We don’t need help from management. We need and deserve respect and neutrality. We want to do the right thing with our team and we want unquestionable cooperation with management. By supporting each other we can help the Proletariat to be the best it can be.’

Update (January 24): Proletariat workers rejected the union’s petition on January 24. This story has been updated to reflect that new information.

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

We appreciate that CWA unilaterally decided to withdraw its petition in response to staff comments. As we have noted, we have encouraged every employee to be able to express their preferences securely through a secret ballot. Our team at Proletariat does amazing work every day. They are focused on working with their teams 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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