Activision Blizzard Accused of Fighting Union at Blizzard Albany

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. / Kevin Dietsch/GettyImages

Staff at Blizzard Albany (previously known as Vicarious Visions, and best known for developing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2) have accused parent company Activision Blizzard of disrupting efforts by quality assurance testers at the studio to form a union.

The would-be union, called the Albany Game Workers Alliance, says Activision Blizzard has re-hired the union busting firm Reed Smith.

"Instead of following Microsoft's lead and committing to a labor neutrality agreement, Activision has made the clear and conscious decision to deny us our basic labor rights while once again spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a union-busting firm," GWA Albany tweeted Wednesday.

Activision Blizzard previously brought Reed Smith in as part of its attempts to prevent quality assurance testers at Raven Software from unionizing. Those attempts failed, and the Game Workers Alliance became the first union formed at a major games company in the United States. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick sent a letter to employees in that union saying he and the company would negotiate a contract with the GWA in good faith, formally recognizing the union in June.

It seems that hard-won cooperation from management won't extend to GWA Albany, as the group says Activision Blizzard has chosen "to delay recognition of our union in an futile effort to disband it.

"We remain willing to engage with management productively if [Activision Blizzard King] leadership will commit to high road labor standards. However, if Activision continues its hostility, we are more than ready to go forward and win the formal legal recognition our union deserves," the group tweeted.

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Kotaku the company hoped to hold a studio-wide vote on unionization at Blizzard Albany despite the fact that only the QA testers would be members of the union. The company tried to force a similar studio-wide vote when the Game Workers Alliance unionized at Raven, but the National Labor Review Board ultimately denied that vote. The move slowed unionization efforts by months, but did not ultimately defeat them.

Blizzard Albany is currently working on Diablo 4, which is expected to arrive some time next year. QA testers at the studio began their union drive in July.