Activision Blizzard staff walk out, protesting loss of abortion rights

Comment on this storyCommentHundreds of Activision Blizzard employees are walking out Thursday in Texas, California, Minnesota and New York to protest the overturn of Roe v. Wade and demand protections. The current count, as of this writing, is 450 employees, in-person and online.The demands include a request for all workers to have the right to work remotely and for workers living in “locations passing discriminatory legislation,” such as antiabortion laws, to be offered relocation assistance to a different state or country. Employees are also demanding the company sign a labor-neutrality agreement to respect the rights of workers to join a union; on Twitter, the workers group A Better ABK said the demand was necessitated by union-busting efforts on the part of Activision Blizzard.“We need to make sure that all of our LGBT people, all of the people at ABK [Activision Blizzard King] with the capacity for pregnancy, all of the women at the company feel safe and protected and that they have the ability to live in places that aren’t going to actively harm them,” said Valentine Powell, a California-based senior engineer on “World of Warcraft.”Our walkout demands represent several actions that our company should take to protect its workers, and can be seen in this graphic (15/17)— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) July 6, 2022

Some of the protests will take place in Texas, specifically, where Activision has offices and remote workers and where abortion was already heavily restricted before the Supreme Court’s decision. Several dozen workers gathered on Thursday in Austin to hold up signs that read, “Gender Equity Now” and “Honk if you support workers’ rights!”“This walkout is the right thing to do. ABK should be ashamed that they are pushing their employees to walk out instead of accepting the demands and creating a safer workplace,” said Fabby Garza, a Texas-based Activision quality assurance tester who helped organize the walkout. “Living in Texas as a person of a marginalized gender is to live in fear that at any point more rights will be taken away from you.”“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,” Rich George, a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard told The Washington Post. “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 health care services for every employee.”Organizers said the increasingly inhospitable legal landscape for marginalized people was the impetus for organizing the walkout.“I’m nonbinary,” said Logan La Coss, a longtime Blizzard customer support employee in Texas who helped organize the walkout. “People like myself are not exactly in the greatest spot if various protected categories just had their rights rolled back. So we’re looking into ways that we could get people to safety effectively. That was the biggest thrust of putting this whole thing together.”Workers in Minnesota are also walking out, with the largest expected turnout compared to other parts of the company across the country.Video game industry on the end of Roe: I’m ‘not proud to be an American’“The remote work demand is very close to my heart. As someone who lives with chronic pain and fatigue as well as anxiety, it’s much easier to manage these things in a controlled remote work environment,” said Kate Anderson, a Minnesota-based quality assurance tester. “We have tried to rally around remote work demands in the past, particularly with the vaccine mandate walkout [in April]. In Minnesota, we have seen several covid breakouts when they have tried return to office pushes in the past.”Activision Blizzard employees have walked out five times over the course of a year, including in protest of a vaccine mandate being lifted, in response to layoffs and to demand their embattled CEO step down. Employees first walked out exactly one year ago over the company’s response to a California state sexual harassment and misconduct lawsuit.The protests around layoffs ultimately resulted in a union drive at Activision-owned Raven Software; 28 quality assurance testers won their bid for a union in May. On Tuesday, workers at Blizzard Albany — which is participating in today’s walkouts — announced that they had filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board.At the start of July, 10 anti-queer and trans laws across different states went into effect, including Florida banning classroom discussions of gender and sexuality and an Alabama law that prevents transgender students from using bathrooms and lockers that align with their genders.Blizzard Albany, formerly Vicarious Visions, announces unionization bidBut even in places where gender-affirming care is available, it can still be difficult to obtain and transgender people may need to seek it out of state. Abortion advocates have expressed concerns that even in states where abortion is protected, resources will be spread thin across demand.“I deeply believe that the company should do what they can to protect employees, so their silence on Dobbs [decision to overturn Roe v. Wade] and anti-trans legislation sends a message that they don’t appreciate us enough to provide what I feel are very reasonable asks,” said Allen Junge, a Minnesota-based quality assurance functional tester.Activision Blizzard employees are specifically asking for relocation services for those living in states with restrictive laws, such as Texas’s six-week ban on abortion. Several states, including Texas and Missouri, are targeting people that “aid and abet” their residents seeking abortion care and reproductive care out of state.Activision Blizzard isn’t the only company with workers protesting the loss of abortion rights. Several employees at Google and its parent company, Alphabet, in Texas as well as across the country attended protests in June against the Supreme Court’s decision to roll back Roe v. Wade. Google did not return a request for comment.“As the world’s largest search engine, Google has a responsibility to do more to protect the privacy of its users, end its financial support of antiabortion politicians and ensure greater abortion access benefits for all workers,” said Alejandra Beatty, member of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA and technical program manager at Verily, an Alphabet-owned company. “We stand with workers at Google, Alphabet, Activision Blizzard and across all industries, fighting for reproductive justice and gender equity.”Anne Branigin contributed to this report.