On Wednesday, Blizzard employees walked out of the company’s main campus in Irvine as a sign of solidarity against the company’s culture of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against women. This protest comes after the State of California sued Activision Blizzard following a two-year investigation.
The walkout, according to The Verge, had a community vibe, with several interviewed employees expressing some hope within solidarity. Some expressed that the company had “previously isolated victims of sexual harassment,” so a large-scale walkout like this provided validation for many and also education for others who “maybe did partake in [the actions] but did not realize that it’s toxic behavior.”
This seems to be the first step in a longer process for employees to get changes they deserve. As a representative told The Verge, “Until [our] demands are met, we won’t stop fighting.”
As it stands, it appears as if the company’s messaging and actions are still not aligned with employee demands.
After the lawsuit was first publicized, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack and Activision Blizzard executive Frances Townsend sent out emails to employees in response. Townsend’s email was particularly troubling to employees, given its outright denial of the experiences and voices of the women who spoke to the DFEH. This sparked employees to send out a response to the “abhorrent” company response to the lawsuit.
Since then, on July 27th, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick released a statement to all employees (to note, on Activision’s investor’s page) where he stated that the “initial response to [the lawsuit]… were, quite frankly, tone deaf.” He then went out to state that the company will make several changes, including more employee support, listening sessions, personnel changes at the manager level, reevaluating hiring practices, and making in-game changes to remove inappropriate content.
Notably, Kotick mentioned that Activision Blizzard has hired the law firm WilmerHale “to conduct a review of our policies and procedures to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace.”
As Kotaku notes, however, WilmerHale has a reputation for being anti-union. The law firm worked with Amazon to ensure its workers did not unionize.
Employees organizing the walkout responded to Kotick’s statement to Kotaku, noting that it was a better tone than original communications, but not enough. The statement failed to address the end of forced arbitration, worker participation in hiring and promotional policy oversight, greater pay transparency, and employee selection of a third party to do audits on company departments.
The full response is cited below (emphasis original):
On the evening before our employee walkout, Activision Blizzard leadership released a statement apologizing for their harmful responses to last week’s DFEH lawsuit. While we are pleased to see that our collective voices – including an open letter with thousands of signatures from current employees – have convinced leadership to change the tone of their communications, this response fails to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns.
Activision Blizzard’s response did not address the following:
- The end of forced arbitration for all employees.
- Worker participation in oversight of hiring and promotion policies.
- The need for greater pay transparency to ensure equality.
- Employee selection of a third party to audit HR and other company processes.
Today’s walkout will demonstrate that this is not a one-time event that our leaders can ignore. We will not return to silence; we will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point.
This is the beginning of an enduring movement in favor of better labor conditions for all employees, especially women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups.
We expect a prompt response and a commitment to action from leadership on points enumerated above, and look forward to maintaining a constructive dialogue on how to build a better Activision Blizzard for all employees.
Today, we stand up for change. Tomorrow and beyond, we will be the change.
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