Today, employees at Activison Blizzard have staged a walkout. Here we compile all the various statements, and show how YOU can support them.
Last week, the state of California sued the video game publisher Activision Blizzard alleging that the company fostered a “pervasive frat boy work culture”. The lawsuit recounted several disgusting and abhorrent accounts of sexual harassment and poor working conditions for women and other marginalized groups from former and current employees.
In response to the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard released a statement calling the allegations “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.” This statement was followed up with Activision Blizzard’s executive vice president of corporate affairs Francis Townsend calling the allegations “factually incorrect, old and out of context.”
These responses were not met well within Activision Blizzard’s doors. After hearing their response, more than 3,000 current and former employees signed a letter condemning the company’s response. Following that, these employees scheduled a walkout in protest of leadership for today, Wednesday, July 28 from 10am-2pm Pacific.
“We know people across the company who have been complaining about these issues for decades or who have made allegations and have not been listened to,” said Valentine Powell, a software engineer and one of more than 300 employees organizing the protest. “The lawsuit and the company’s response to it was the match that lit the powder keg.”
The organizers of this protest are demanding better and fair working conditions and assurances in place that women, transgender people, non-binary people, and other marginalized groups are never harassed or discriminated against in the workplace again. The following are their demands:
1. An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.
2. The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.
3. Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.
4. Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.
“It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues,” the organizers said in a statement.
However, Powell notes that these demands were crafted as a first round. They don’t believe that these demands will be met right away, but that this could take months and maybe even years. Yet, the goal is a better long-term work environment for all Activision Blizzard employees, and perhaps even the entire industry.
The walkout will be both in-person and virtual. Organizers of the protest are requesting that supporters use #ActiBlizzWalkout with a Blue Heart to show your support on social media. They’ve also thanked their supporters and requested that they consider donating to these charities below:
To their credit, according to Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, Blizzard informed employees that anyone participating in the protest would receive paid time-off. If anything, it shows that the company is willing to play ball and change in some respects.
On top of that, CEO Bobby Kotick also issued a statement via a letter to the staff, saying their first response was “tone deaf” and that:
“We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.
We will do everything possible to make sure that together, we improve and build the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to foster creativity and inspiration.
I have asked 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. This work will begin immediately. The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the management team at WilmerHale and was most recently the Director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.”
Just this morning, the organizers of the walk-out issued a response to Kotick’s letter:
It is brave, commendable, and empowering to see current and former Activision Blizzard employees, as well as other members of the gaming industry, take a stand against the toxic culture they have endured for so long. No one should ever have to deal with sexual harassment, less pay, and less promotional opportunities in any form or fashion. No one deserves that. Even if change doesn’t happen overnight, their stand could have a lasting effect of the gaming industry and the next generation of developers.
We stand with you. #ActiBlizzWalkout