Activision is currently facing two high-priority court cases: One lawsuit for sexual misconduct from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and another class-action lawsuit alleging securities fraud. Now the billion-dollar Call of Duty maker is facing potential charges from labor protection agencies.
The Communications Workers of America AFL-CIO has accused Activision-Blizzard of Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) by violating Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act and has filed a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board. The case (case no. 31-CA-282822) has been assigned to Region 31 of the National Labor Relations Board and is currently ongoing.
The complaint alleges that Activision-Blizzard has "repeatedly engaged in unlawful conduct by threatening employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed by Section 7," which pertains to employee rights. The document goes on to charge Activision, who made a record $8.3 billion in 2020, with threatening employees who talk about topics like wages, working conditions, and other protected concerted activities.
The ULP charge states:
Within the last six months the above named employer has repeatedly engaged in unlawful conduct by threatening employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed by Section 7. The employer has threatened employees that they cannot talk about or communicate about wages, hours and working conditions; told employees they cannot communicate with or discuss ongoing investigations of wages, hours and working conditions; maintained an overly broad social media policy; enforced the social media policy against employees who have engaged in protected concerted activity; threatened or disciplined employees on account of protected concerted activity; engaged in surveillance of employees engaged in protected concerted activity and engaged in interrogation of employees about protected concerted activity
"Management could have responded with humility and a willingness to take necessary steps to address the horrid conditions some workers have faced. Instead Activision Blizzard's response to righteous worker activity was surveillance, intimidation and hiring notorious union busters," CWA organizer Tom Smith told The Washington Post.
Here's how the National Labor Relations Board defines protected concerted activity:
Employees who are not represented by a union also have rights under the NLRA. Specifically, the National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of employees to engage in "concerted activity", which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment. A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer's attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action.
A few examples of protected concerted activities are:
- Two or more employees addressing their employer about improving their pay.
- Two or more employees discussing work-related issues beyond pay, such as safety concerns, with each other.
- An employee speaking to an employer on behalf of one or more co-workers about improving workplace conditions.
Following the DEFH lawsuit, over 2,600 of the company's 9,500 employees have called for change at the company. This led to a workers going on strike and walking out in protest. While workers haven't unionized due to coercion tactics, they have joined forces to form A Better ABK (Activision Blizzard King) to promote awareness and call for change.
Activision-Blizzard corporate responded by hiring WilmerHale, a form that helped bust Amazon's unions, to help reform its workbase.
"I have asked the law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of our policies and procedures to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace. This work will begin immediately.
"The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the management team at WilmerHale and was most recently the Director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission's Division of Enforcement," Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said to employees.
The move has been met with harsh criticism from workers and even shareholders, which leads up to the most recent labor suit.
Activision-Blizzard is currently facing a class-action lawsuit alleging securities fraud, and the suit has attracted over a dozen high-profile law firms seeking to appoint a lead plaintiff on the case.
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