Microsoft says they won’t block the result of Activision Blizzard’s unionisation efforts

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This past Wednesday, fifteen Raven Software workers signed a letter asking the current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to encourage Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognise their union, Game Workers Alliance. Microsoft’s corporate vice president and general counsel Lisa Tanzi responded to the letter with a statement to The Washington Post: “Microsoft respects Activision Blizzard employees’ right to choose whether to be represented by a labor organization and we will honor those decisions.”


Earlier this year, Microsoft announced they were acquiring Activison Blizzard in a cash deal for $68.7 billion. At the time, Microsoft Gaming’s CEO Phil Spencer released a statement saying “as a company, Microsoft is committed to our journey for inclusion in every aspect of gaming, among both employees and players. We deeply value individual studio cultures. We also believe that creative success and autonomy go hand-in-hand with treating every person with dignity and respect. We hold all teams, and all leaders, to this commitment. We’re looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard.” Presumably, Raven QA decided to take Phil at his word.


In December last year, Raven Software’s QA department organised a strike after the company laid off twelve members of the team. Later in January, members of Raven Software’s QA team unionised and formed Game Workers Alliance, citing their principles as solidarity, sustainability, transparency, equity and diversity. Activision Blizzard has since refused to recognise the union, forcing Raven QA to contact the National Labor Relations Board, where they are waiting for a response.


Game Workers Alliance’s letter to Microsoft also mentioned Reed Smith, the law firm currently being used by Activision Blizzard, for having anti-union literature available on their website. The letter specifically highlighted a PowerPoint presentation that had a slide titled Types of Employees Unions Exploit – “I hope that you will agree that this demeaning and insulting approach to employees who are seeking to improve their workplace should not be tolerated.”


Reed Smith’s director of corporate communications, Phill McGowan, responded with the following:


“The content of this presentation was created for a workshop in 2013 by lawyers who no longer work at the firm. It does not reflect the way our firm thinks about the rights of employees and employers. These slides have no bearing on the pending CWA representation petition, and were not prepared or used by the lawyers representing Activision Blizzard.”


So, there you go. It was just casual anti-union literature. It has nothing to do with this.

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