Union Calls for Regulator “Oversight” of Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard Buy

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Labor giant the Communications Workers of America is calling for regulatory scrutiny of Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard after an organizational change was revealed at one of the video game holding company’s developers that will affect workers who recently announced they were forming a union.

On Monday, Polygon senior reporter Nicole Carpenter reported on a staff email from Raven Software studio head Brian Raffel announcing an “organizational change” at the Activision Blizzard-owned studio that would “embed” quality-assurance workers in various teams, including those for animation, audio and production. The email said that the restructuring “has been carefully considered and is a next logical step in the planned process that began several months ago,” and that other studios at Activision Blizzard utilize this approach. (In a statement to Carpenter, Activision Publishing said the move “continues the work the studio began in November.”)

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The CWA, which recently partnered with Raven Software quality-assurance workers to form a union and request voluntary recognition from management, is calling foul. “This announcement, which came three days after Raven QA workers publicly requested recognition of their union — the Game Workers Alliance (CWA) — is nothing more than a tactic to thwart Raven QA workers who are exercising their right to organize,” said CWA national organizing director Tom Smith in a statement on Tuesday.

Smith went further, saying that the announcement from Raffel exemplifies why major tech mergers “deserve real oversight.” He added, “Regulators from the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, and states Attorneys General must take a serious look at the proposed merger with Microsoft and enforce our antitrust laws to ensure consumers and workers are not harmed as a result.” The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment.

Raven QA workers announced they were forming a union on Friday, just three days after Microsoft’s $68.7 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard was first revealed. Though workers have been organizing across the company, the quality-assurance department at Raven Software was the first unit within Activision Blizzard to announce a union. In a statement about the union on Friday, an Activision Blizzard representative said the company was “carefully reviewing” the request for voluntary recognition.

Prior to the union announcement, Raven QA workers had been striking for several weeks in response to layoffs of QA testers. That strike ended “pending the recognition of our union,” Activision Blizzard worker group ABK Workers’ Alliance tweeted on Saturday.

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