Brian Bulatao, former Trump admin and current chief administrative officer for Activision Blizzard, sent a letter to his colleagues that doesn’t outright discourage them from unionizing but also kind of discourages them from unionizing. The letter was sent after workers engaged in their fifth straight day of work stoppage in response to layoffs at Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software; the creation of a strike-fund to support those who walked out; and employees collaborating with the Communications Workers of America.
The letter, shared on Twitter by Jessica Gonzalez, reaffirms in bold letters that Activision supports workers’ right to choose whether to join a union (as interference with unionizing is a violation of federal law). But, through carefully worded phrases, the letter also seems to discourage those same efforts by implying a union would impede progress by interfering in the direct communication between employees and management, a common anti-union talking point.
“We believe that direct dialogue between management and employees is essential to the success of Activision Blizzard,” Bulatao wrote.
Direct dialogue like when over 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees signed a petition to remove Bobby Kotick as CEO while the board of directors continued to essentially respond, “No.”
Direct dialogue like when breastfeeding workers complained for years about the substandard conditions of their pumping rooms including having breastmilk stolen from their special fridges, and HR allegedly not doing enough to address those complaints.
Y’know, that kind of direct dialogue.
“We believe that direct dialogue between management and employees is essential to the success of Activision Blizzard.”
But according to Bulatao, the best way forward is “transparent dialogue between leaders and employees that we can act upon quickly.” As though the abuses the company is accused of didn’t occur over the course of years with some of the biggest offenders only being let go as recently as 2020.
The letter also attempts to warn employees off unions by characterizing them as faceless third parties to whom employees would consign away their rights without hope of input.
“As you make this decision, we ask only that you take time to consider the consequence of your signature on the binding legal document presented to you by the CWA. [...] that means your ability to negotiate all your own working conditions will be turned over to the CWA.”
It’s true that unions are legal intercessors between employer and employee, but the “collective” in “collective bargaining unit” has always been composed of current employees.
In addition to Bulatao’s letter, Julie Hodges, Activision Blizzard’s chief people officer, issued her own statement to managers about how to respond to questions they might be getting about unionization and training sessions.
Activision Blizzard did not respond in time for comment. The CWA criticized these anti-union adjacent tactics in an email to The Verge saying,
“Instead of responding to their workers’ concerns, they’ve opted to blast the most tired anti-union talking points straight from the union busting script. Union avoidance campaigns waste resources that ABK management could otherwise be using to address the serious concerns at the company such as compensating the victims of sexual harassment and discrimination.”
Activision Blizzard hasn’t gone full Amazon in its attempts to stop employees from unionizing. Bulatao’s letter said if Activision Blizzard fails to turn the company around, unionization would always be an option. But the letter gave no timeline of when such progress would be made. And as Activision Blizzard continues to create new committees and lean on “direct and transparent dialogue” that can be acted upon “quickly” to solve problems, employees like Christine — who gave a press conference outlining how she was harassed and then retaliated against for reporting her harassment — continue to suffer.