Activision Blizzard slapped with new allegations of worker intimidation, union busting

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Activision Blizzard has been accused of unfair labor practices, including worker intimidation and union busting, in a new complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board by a group of employees known as ‘ABetterABK’ and the Communications Workers of America.

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According to the complaint, the video game giant has allegedly "threatened employees that they cannot talk about or communicate about wages, hours and working conditions" or any ongoing company investigations related to the matters. In addition, Activision is accused of threatening or disciplining employees who have engaged in "protected concerted activity" as well as engaging in surveillance and interrogation of those employees. 

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The latest allegations come after a lawsuit from California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing in July, which claimed Activision paid its female employees less than their male counterparts and provided them with fewer opportunities to advance, fostered a "frat boy workplace culture", and ignored complaints by female employees of blatant harassment, discrimination and retaliation. 

According to the suit, women make up about 20% of Activision's workforce of approximately 9,500 employees.

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Activision's legal counsel initially issued a lengthy response, calling the allegations "distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past" and outlining  "significant changes" its made to create an inclusive workplace. The response prompted a petition signed by over 2,000 former and current Activision Blizzard employees, who blasted the company's statements as "abhorrent and insulting." 

CEO Bobby Kotick later issued a letter to employees calling the response "tone deaf." He added that Activision would take multiple steps to ensure a safe and inclusive workplace, including hiring an outside law firm, WilmerHale, to review the company's policies. 

However, that didn't stop employees from staging a walkout demanding pay transparency, inclusive recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies and a third party audit of the company's reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff as well as an end to mandatory arbitration clauses in employee contracts.

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"Management could have responded with humility and a willingness to take necessary steps to address the horrid conditions some ABK workers have faced. Instead Activision Blizzard’s response to righteous worker activity was surveillance, intimidation, and hiring notorious union busters," CWA's national organizing director Tom Smith said in a statement. "The National Labor Relations Board under the Biden Administration has made it clear that it will hold companies accountable whenever they break the law; we have filed these charges to ensure that the actions of ABK management will not go unanswered."

ABetterABK emphasized that if the NLRB rules in its favor, the outcome would be "retroactive" and "set a precedent that no worker in the US can be intimidated out of talking about forced arbitration."

"We care deeply about our employees’ rights and have made great efforts to respect the rights of all employees under the NLRB," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told FOX Business. 

In the weeks following the discrimination suit, Activision chief operating officer J. Allen Brack and head of global human resources Jesse Meschuk have departed the company. In addition, the company has hired Disney human resources veteran Julie Hodges to serve as chief people officer and Delta Airlines veteran Sandeep Dube to serve as chief commercial officer. 

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