Employees from Activision Blizzard walked off their jobs today in order to demand protections for the staff members impacted by the loss of abortion rights in the United States. The walkouts impacted studios in California, Texas, Minnesota, and New York.
A Better ABK (organized under Communications Workers of America) issued a statement of demands directed at their employer, Activision Blizzard, that include relocation assistance for those working out of discriminatory states, cost of living adjustments for relocations, and guaranteed abortion access in employees’ healthcare plans. Some of the demands relate to labor rights more broadly, such as the right to choose remote work, including employees in sexual harassment audits, and for the company to sign a labor neutrality agreement like Microsoft.
According to the Washington Post, 450 employees had been participating in the walkout at the time the article was written. Some participated in-person, while others participated virtually in Zoom. The Irvine mayor Farrah Khan and a representative from Congresswoman Katie Porter’s office also came to support the walkout. “[We are] supporting our workers at Blizzard today where female workers have continuously faced harassment and working conditions haven’t improved,” Khan tweeted. “This cannot continue through next year in hopes that Microsoft will do better.”
Relocation is a particularly important issue for the employees at Activision Blizzard because the company has a location in Austin, TX. Texas is a trigger law state that will soon criminalize those who perform abortions. Employees at other tech and gaming companies have also demanded support for those working out of Texas (such as ZeniMax and Nvidia).
Currently, there is no information on whether or not the publisher intends to respond to the workers’ demands. Kotaku reached out to CWA but did not receive a response by the time of publication. A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard provided Kotaku with the following statement:
We support the right of our employees to express their views and values in a safe, responsible way, without fear of retaliation. There are numerous ways they can do so publicly or confidentially.
Our leadership team remains focused on ensuring we are the very best place to work. This includes ensuring gender equity throughout the company and comprehensive access to reproductive and other healthcare services for every employee.
Notably, the statement does not directly address the walkout’s list of demands. Other gaming companies such as Bungie have promised to reimburse travel costs for employees who “cannot get access to the healthcare they need where they live.” Game development studio Certain Affinity offered to pay relocation expenses for employees who cannot access “essential care.” So there is an industry precedent for the walkout organizers’ demands. With the massive success of the Call of Duty franchise last year, Activision Blizzard certainly has the resources to give these benefits to its employees.
Update 07/21/2022 6:43 p.m. ET: Activision Blizzard sent the following statement to Kotaku:
In early June, the company announced expanded medical travel benefits to include coverage for U.S. employees and their dependents who participate in our medical plans and live in areas where access to medical care, including reproductive health, gender-affirming treatment, transplant care, and any other medical care covered by our plans that is not available in a covered person’s state, or within 100 miles of where they live.