Despite nearly completing its acquisition deal with Microsoft, there are still issues happening over at Activision Blizzard. This time, the company responsible for handling IPs such as Call of Duty was accused of an effort against an Albany union effort. This claim was made by the studio known as Blizzard Albany (formerly Vicarious Visions).
According to the Albany Game Workers Alliance, the publisher has re-hired Reed Smith – an organization offering union-avoidance services- to stall the recognition of a union. According to the group, Activision has made the clear and conscious decision to use a union-busting firm instead of following Microsoft's lead and committing to a labor neutrality agreement.
In response to the GWA’s allegations, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said that the company is looking to hold a studio-wide vote on unionization for staff at Blizzard Albany instead. Rich Gorge, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson, said the following to Kotaku:
Given the significant impact this change could have for roughly 150 people in Albany (formerly Vicarious Visions), we believe every employee in Albany who works on Diablo should have a direct say in this decision; it should not be made by fewer than 15% of employees.
While this sounds like a fair precept, it should be worth noting that ActiBlizz pulled a similar stunt before with Raven QA. During the voting process, the publisher told staff that a union would impact game development, potential benefits, and promotion opportunities. Employees also said that they received email graphics urging them to "please vote no."
Meanwhile, Reed Smith, the union-busting firm in question, has some history in terms of its union-busting efforts. The firm even had a PowerPoint Presentation that talked about how unions sought to 'exploit lazy workers' while providing strategies about why unionization was ultimately a bad idea. Of course, the presentation has ever since been removed. But that only puts into question why Activision Blizzard would rehire this firm.
We'll continue to update this story as more developments are made. Should anything else happen with the former Vicarious Visions studio, we'll make sure you're the first to know through here.