Activision Blizzard employees will be staging a walkout today over the company’s attempt to revise vaccine policy as part of its transition back to in-office work.
Brian Bulatao, the chief administrative officer of Activision Blizzard (and former Undersecretary of Management at the US State Department under the Trump administration) emailed all employees of the company last week, informing them that vaccination requirements would be lifted “effective immediately” in the hopes of bringing everyone back into offices again in the coming weeks.
Bulatao wrote that as “businesses and other indoor venues across the U.S. lift vaccine requirements…we feel it is important to align our site protocols with local guidance,” and cited the “benefits of in-person collaboration” as a reason behind the desire for employees to return to office.
It’s worth noting that it’s easier for a company like Activision Blizzard, which has been repeatedly caught engaging in union-busting activity to monitor its staff when they’re in-office rather than when they’re working remotely.
Jessica Gonzalez, one of the founding organizers of ABK Workers Alliance shared the email to employees and over social media and the response was immediate and largely negative. The decision to lift the vaccine mandate came as a surprise and was apparently made without being run by employees or studio management.
Employees demanded that the publisher – which is currently in the process of being acquired by Microsoft – reinstate vaccine requirements and allow remote work as a permanent option. “This reversal puts people at risk for infection. I and many other employees are angry that our company is pushing toward mandatory returns to office with this restriction lifted,” a representative for ABK Workers Alliance told Polygon.
By the time that ABK Workers Alliance began discussing a walkout, Bulatao sent a follow-up email appearing to backtrack the initial email without admitting responsibility or accountability. In the email he wrote that, despite the company-wide policy, leadership at Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King can “determine the processes and policies that work best for their employees and locations based on local conditions and risk.”
In response, ABK’s Jessica Gonzalez said, “The walkout still happens.”
This will be the fourth time Activision Blizzard employees have staged a walkout in protest of their employer. The first time was in July 2021, after the company’s “abhorrent and insulting” response to the lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing that exposed serious allegations of sexism, harassment and toxic workplace culture.
The second walkout was in November 2021, in which employees called for the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick, now a household name in corporate shitfaces, following a Wall Street Journal report that detailed his participation in covering up reports of employee misconduct as well as reports of a death threat he made to his assistant over voicemail.
A third walkout was held in December, after a number of QA workers were laid off from Raven Software, the studio behind multiple Call of Duty titles. That walkout eventually led to a strike that led to the formation of Game Workers Alliance, and are now waiting for a decision from the National Labor Relations Board to determine the parameters of its formal recognition as a union.