Activision Starts Using Familiar Anti-Union Tactics

A company executive who used to work in the Donald Trump administration sent an email trying to discourage employees from unionizing.
activision-blizzard
Image: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
On the Clock is Motherboard's reporting on the organized labor movement, gig work, automation, and the future of work.

An Activision Blizzard executive sent a company-wide email trying to discourage workers from forming a union on Friday.

The email, posted on Twitter by Activision employee and activist Jessica Gonzalez, was sent by Chief Administrative Officer Brian Bulatao, a former staffer in the Donald Trump administration. Two current Activision employees confirmed to Motherboard that they received the email as well.

Advertisement

Bulatao’s message includes trite anti-union arguments and comes a day after Activision Blizzard workers launched a strike fund in collaboration with the labor union Communications Workers of America (CWA). They also announced that they were going to distribute union cards to workers, the first step that may lead to unionization. 

“As you make this decision for your future, we ask only that you take time to consider the consequences of your signature on the binding legal document presented to you by CWA,” the email read. “Once you sign that document, you will have signed over to CWA the exclusive right ‘to represent [you] for the purpose of collective bargaining concerning all terms and conditions of employment.’ That means that your ability to negotiate all your own working conditions will be turned over to CWA.”

Bulatao’s interpretation of how the unionizing process works is misleading. Until the majority of workers vote to unionize, most anti-union employers will not recognize a union that the company must legally negotiate with. t's also an argument that companies big and small use to try to dissuade workers from unionizing. Unions such as CWA help workers negotiate with their employers over issues such as wages, benefits, and sexual harassment protocols, elevate their voices and give them more bargaining power. In other words, in a typical unionization and collective bargaining process, workers are directly involved in negotiating better working conditions for themselves. 

Advertisement

If anything, the email may achieve the opposite of what Bulatao was hoping for.

“It's anti union scare tactics, and all that it has accomplished based on our slack is to push people on the fence towards unionizing,” a current Activision Blizzard employee, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation, told Motherboard in an online chat. 

“This is a classic anti-union message, trying to intimidate,” another current employee said in an online chat. “The company is scared that workers may unionize.”

In September, employees filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the company of “"intimidation and union busting."

Do you, or did you used to, work at Activision Blizzard? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, Wickr/Telegram/Wire @lorenzofb, or email lorenzofb@vice.com. You can contact Lauren Kaori Gurley by email lauren.gurley@vice.com or securely on Signal 201-897-2109.

Activision Blizzard, CWA, and the ABK Workers Alliance, the employees’ group that has been fighting for change inside the company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The email is the latest salvo in a conflict that’s been escalating quickly in the last few months, after the state of California filed a lawsuit against the games giant for being “breeding ground for harassment.” Since then, several employees and former employees have come out sharing stories of sexual harassment and discrimination. On Wednesday, an employee sued Activision Blizzard for retaliating against her after reporting that she was harassed.

“When I complained to my supervisors, I was told ‘They were just joking’ and that I should get over it,” the employee, who goes by her first name Christine to protect her privacy, said in a press conference. “I was told not to go to HR. I was told that the harassing men were ‘just trying to be friends with me.’ I was told, ‘They did nothing wrong by law.’”

Subscribe to our podcast, CYBER. Subscribe to our new Twitch channel.