Workers continue to organize at video game giant and Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard, fallout from the state of California suing the company for allegedly fostering a "breeding ground for harassment." Employees have scheduled a company-wide walkout for tomorrow morning, according to a statement released to Waypoint by organizers today.
"As current Activision Blizzard employees," reads the statement, "we are holding a walkout to call on the executive leadership team to work with us on the following demands, in order to improve conditions for employees at the company, especially women, and in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups."
The walkout has demands, including ending mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts, a tactic commonly used by big corporations to keep issues quiet; adopting new "recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies" centered around representation "at all levels; disclosing compensation, promotion rates, and salary ranges "for employees of all genders and ethnicities;" the hiring of a third-party "diversity, equity, & inclusion task force" to audit Activision Blizzard's "reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff."
"It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues," reads the statement.
Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The walkout, scheduled for between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET, is set to take place tomorrow at the front of Blizzard's main offices in Irvine, California, and will have both virtual and in-person components. There is also a hashtag, #ActiBlizzWalkout, that people can use in solidarity.
This escalation arrives just a day after an open letter to management distributed internally at Activision Blizzard "to demand change and hold our leaders and companies accountable to the values we signed onto when joining." The full letter can be read here. When the letter became public, more than 800 employees had signed on. As of this writing, more than 2,600 signatures have been attached to the open letter, with more than 1,600 of them being current Activision Blizzard employees, according to an organizer who spoke to Waypoint.
"Our goal is to show our leadership that we are serious about the need to solve these problems," said the organizer, who asked to be anonymous to avoid potential reprisals from Activision Blizzard.
"Blizzard has a responsibility to listen to its employees—past and present," said former Blizzard software engineer Cher Scarlett to Waypoint. "No one should be put through what we’ve been through. HR should not be a safe haven for predators and abusers. Being gaslit is not going to push any of us back into silence. I fully support #ActiBlizzWalkout."
The lawsuit against Activision was filed last week by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, who was also part of a discrimation lawsuit against the developer of League of Legends, Riot Games, in 2018. Over 100 Riot Games employees walked out to end forced arbitration at the company in 2019. All of this comes in the wake of multiple reports about exploitative working environments systemic to the games industry, including Ubisoft.
California's lawsuit alleges Activision fostered a toxic "frat boy" work culture that included supposed "cube crawls" where men would "crawl" through office cubicles and harass women, while consuming enormous amounts of alcohol. Men would also be allowed to play video games at all hours of the day, while women would not. Among other allegations, the lawsuit detailed instances of disproprinately assigning tasks to women instead of men, rape jokes, groping, and how rare it was for anyone to be punished for engaging in these activities.
The fallout and ongoing criticism has prompted lengthy apologies from former Blizzard executives, including former co-founder and CEO Mike Morhaime and Diablo co-creator Chris Metzen, who was Blizzard's senior VP of story and franchise development until he left.
"I was at Blizzard for 28 years," said Morhaime on Twitter last week. "During that time, I tried very hard to create an environment that was safe and welcoming for people of all genders and backgrounds. I knew that it was not perfect, but clearly we were far from that goal. The fact that so many women were mistreated and were not supported means we let them down. In addition, we did not succeed in making it feel safe for people to tell their truth."
The fate of the lawsuit remains unclear and the legal system can take years, but California is seeking an injunction to enforce compliance with workplace protections, pay adjustments to workers, unpaid wages, back pay, lost wages, and specifically benefits for women at the company, as "compliance with California's broad workplace protections is long overdue."
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai contributed reporting.