In a surprising and deeply ironic twist, the workers at Activision Blizzard-owned Proletariat have canceled their union election. A statement from the Communication Workers of America confirmed the news saying that Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak is to blame.
“Like many founders, he took the workers’ concerns as a personal attack and held a series of meetings that demoralized and disempowered the group, making a free and fair election impossible,” read the CWA’s statement.
Proletariat would have been Activision Blizzard’s third union after the success of QA-initiated unions at Raven Studios and, most recently, Blizzard Albany. Proletariat’s union bid was of particular interest as it would have been the first “wall-to-wall” unionization effort including workers from multiple departments.
Activision Blizzard’s pending parent company Microsoft recently voluntarily recognized a union made up of QA workers at ZeniMax Online Studios. Microsoft has adopted a policy of non-interference with its studios’ unionization efforts, a policy workers at the aptly named Proletariat hoped would apply there, especially since the acquisition of Activision Blizzard is in its final but fraught stages.
“Unfortunately, our CEO responded by holding meetings which framed the conversation as a personal betrayal, instead of respecting our right to join together to protect ourselves and have a seat at the table, especially after Activision Blizzard acquired Proletariat,” said Dustin Yost, a software engineer at Proletariat and a member of the Proletariat Workers Alliance / CWA organizing committee, in the CWA’s press release. “Those meetings took their toll. While we are withdrawing our union election petition today, and truly hope that management will prioritize the concerns that led us to organize, I still believe that a union is the best way for workers in our industry to ensure our voices are being heard.”
Activision Blizzard spokesperson Joe Christinat responded to the news saying, “We appreciate that the CWA has unilaterally decided to withdraw its petition in response to employee feedback. As we’ve stated, we welcomed the opportunity for each employee to safely express their preferences through a confidential vote.”
Christinat goes on to deny that Proletariat’s CEO was interfering in unionization efforts at the studio saying in an email to The Verge,
“The Proletariat CEO was responding to concerns from employees who felt pressured or intimidated by CWA and wanted more information about what joining a union could mean. He was defending his employees’ right to express their true preferences in a private vote, so they couldn’t be targeted for their perspectives - like he himself is being targeted by the CWA right now.”
It’s worth noting Proletariat’s employees also stated that Sivak’s meetings discouraged his employees from continuing with the union vote. However, today’s decision doesn’t preclude another union vote couldn’t be in the studio’s future. According to Proletatiat’s own website, “The Proletariat leadership is and has always been pro-worker. In fact, the Proletariat name was inspired by the founders’ dissatisfaction as workers in the industry.”
The Verge has reached out Proletariat for comment.
Update Tuesday January 24th 6:11 PM ET: Added comments from Activision Blizzard spokesperson Joe Christinat.