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Activision Blizzard Withheld Raises from Union Organizers

Activision Blizzard

An investigation by the National Labor Relations Board found Activision Blizzard withheld raises from quality assurance testers at Raven Software who had campaigned for unionization at the studio.

In the wake of the revelation, Activision Blizzard and the Game Workers Alliance — as the Raven QA union is known — will continue to negotiate toward a collective bargaining agreement. Should the two parties fail to reach an agreement, the NLRB can issue a complaint against Activision Blizzard. Alternatively, it could prosecute the case before a federal judge, but this outcome is said to be unlikely.

Former NLRB chairman Wilma Liebman said the finding could give the union leverage for negotiations.

"It's part of their tactics, you know, hit them wherever they can," she said, "to put pressure on the company in order to reach an agreement with them and to stop violating the law."

Activision Blizzard spokesperson Rich George said the withheld raises were a result of it following the National Labor Relations Act.

"Due to legal obligations under the [National Labor Relations Act] requiring employers not to grant wage increases while an election was pending, we could not institute new pay initiatives at Raven because they would be brand new kinds of compensation changes, which had not been planned beforehand. This rule that employers should not grant these kinds of wage increases has been the law for many years."

The Game Workers Alliance went public with its unionization attempts in January after a strike protesting the firing of 12 members of the QA team. In May, the group won a union vote despite union busting efforts by Activision Blizzard.

The union triggered the NRLB's investigation in June, when it filed a labor complaint with against Activision Blizzard in June alleging the company had discriminated and retaliated against current and former QA workers for union activity. The company laid off 12 QA testers, reorganized the studio to split the QA department up, withheld benefits, and solicited grievances from employees. The NLRB found that the company asked workers to air grievances in May, but the other issues in the complaint remain under investigation.

The Communications Workers of America filed an amended version of that same complaint Monday, saying the ongoing lack of a QA department constitutes a labor law violation.