More than 100 Activision Blizzard employees participated in a virtual strike on Monday as the Santa Monica video game studio joined a growing wave of companies that lifted COVID-19 vaccination requirements while pushing workers to return. At the office.
Employees at the studio known for its “World of Warcraft” and “Call of Duty” franchises who attended the work stoppage took the day as a day of unpaid leave. Some joined a Zoom call that was a virtual protest rally and spoke out on social media.
The strike came in response to the company’s announcement Thursday that it would no longer require employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to work in the office, according to an email from Chief Administrative Officer Brian Bulatao that was shared by employees. and later posted on Twitter.
The email quoted companies and indoor venues in the United States revoking vaccine requirements and said it was “important to align our site’s protocols with local guidance.”
Big companies like Adidas, Starbucks, and Intel have revoked their vaccination warrants for workers in recent months after the Supreme Court in January overturned the Biden administration’s vaccination or testing rule for companies with at least 100 employees. In California, a bill proposed by the Assembly that would have required all employees and independent contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment the one that was shelved on March 29.
United Airlines, which implemented the airline industry’s first vaccination requirement for its employees in August and moved 2,200 vaccine-waived employees to leave unpaid or alternative roles, is also allowing unvaccinated workers to return to their old jobs. .
Activision Blizzard’s announcement “came as a shock to everyone,” said Ada-Claire Cripps, a senior software engineer at Battle.net and Blizzard’s online products.
Cripps said she and other employees had already been dissatisfied with the company’s previous position upon returning to the office, which suggested that all workers would eventually work in person by default unless they requested an exemption.
“We were able to get our jobs done without having to be physically present in the office, so this idea that we need to be there seems a bit baseless,” Cripps said.
With the further removal of the vaccine mandate and a spouse at home in a COVID risk category, Cripps said he is even more reluctant to return to the office.
“I don’t want to have to go to a job where I don’t know who I can trust not to get sick,” he said.
An Activision Blizzard spokesperson denied that the company had plans to require all employees to return to the office and said most employees operate under a voluntary return-to-office policy.
“When employees return to the office, as well as the appearance of their remote scheduling versus in-person scheduling, it will vary by business unit and role,” the spokesperson said.
Workers say they are frustrated by the lack of clarity about how their return to office will be handled, as well as why some employees can continue working remotely while others cannot.
Andrew Carl, a senior systems designer at Blizzard’s Albany, NY office formerly known to Vicarious Visions, described the process for applying for a return-to-office waiver as “burdensome and does not appear to apply equally.”
Carl said several colleagues who worked in quality assurance departments were told they couldn’t continue working remotely and others were told they had to have a diagnosed medical condition to apply for a return to office waiver.
A Better ABK, a workers’ organizational group at Activision Blizzard, announced on Friday plans to hold a workers strike, listing requests to cancel the decision to lift the vaccine requirement, offer remote work as a permanent solution, and allow individual employees to decide whether to work in the office or from home.
Shortly after the strike was announced, Bulatao sent out another email clarifying that although the mandate on company-wide vaccines had been lifted, individual studios and locations could still implement vaccine requirements for workers. for the entire office. A company spokesperson confirmed that the Blizzard office in Irvine and quality assurance offices in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas would still require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to work in person.
Workers are still demanding that the vaccine mandate be reinstated throughout the company and that Activision have an “open and fair” return to office policy.
“What we want to do is make sure everyone is as safe as possible and that they are further protected by vaccinations and tests,” Cripps said.
Anthony Santella, a professor of health administration policy at the University of New Haven, said he was concerned about the “all or nothing” approach some companies are taking to COVID-19 security measures. Although COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are decreasing in parts of the country, increased travel in the summer months and emerging variants make the lifting of security measures premature, he said.
Some mitigation measures such as daily symptom reporting and the physical social distancing requirement that some companies still have in place may be eased, Santella said, but “the vaccination requirements, for me it’s not a start.”
Strikes at Activision Blizzard have become almost a regular occurrence over the past year due to a flurry of detailed news allegations of sexual misconduct and discrimination. workers tried to remove CEO Bobby Kotick after the Wall Street Journal reported he was aware of but did not report several alleged incidents of sexual misconduct to the board. Employees also came out to protest the dismissal of several quality control workers at the company’s Raven Software studio in Wisconsin.
“There have been several strikes at Activision over the past year due to management’s refusal to put the safety and security of its workers above profits,” said Beth Allen, spokesperson for Communications Workers of America, a national union. who assisted in organizing Activision Blizzard Workers’ Efforts. “We believe all workers should have a say in important health and safety issues, especially during the pandemic.”