Labor Board: Activision Blizzard Withheld Raises from Union Activists
Workspan Daily
October 07, 2022

As reported by TechCrunch, the National Labor Relations Board said gaming giant Activision Blizzard unlawfully retaliated against workers at Raven Software who had formed a union. 

According to TechCrunch, the quality assurance (QA) department at subsidiary Raven Software announced that they would form a union in January. Activision Blizzard sought to block the union. Regardless, the Raven Software QA testers, who operate under the name Game Workers Alliance (GWA), made history in May when their union vote passed 19-3. Now, the GWA is the first officially recognized union at a major U.S. gaming company. 

While the GWA was in the process of unionizing, Activision Blizzard converted about 1,100 QA contractors to full-time staffers and increased the minimum wage to $20 per hour. But workers at Raven Software, who are among the lowest paid in the studio, were denied these wage increases. Activision Blizzard claimed that due to laws under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the company wasn’t allowed to change the pay rate of its employees in the midst of a union effort. The Communication Workers of America, which represents the union, said that this was a disingenuous attempt at union busting. 

Now, the NLRB has officially found merit in the union’s complaint, declaring that it was illegal for Activision Blizzard to withhold wages.  

“Despite their best efforts, Activision’s constant attempts to undermine its workers’ and impede our union election have failed. We’re glad the NLRB recognized that Activision acted illegally when they unequally enforced policies by withholding company-wide benefits and wage increases from Raven workers for organizing,” the GWA said in a statement. 

U.S. Economy Adds 263,000 Jobs in September 

Job growth in the U.S. slowed for a second month in a row in September, as a series of supersized interest rate hikes spread throughout the economy.  

The U.S. added 263,000 jobs, according to the jobs report released on Friday by the Department of Labor. The report is a welcome sign for federal officials trying to tamp down a tight labor market that has placed upward pressure on wages and contributed to soaring prices, Yahoo Finance noted. However, the jobs figure is still high enough that the U.S. central bank is likely to move forward with significant rate increases.  

“Today’s job number is a hawkish reading, with almost all the elements of the report moving in the wrong direction for the Fed,” Principal Global Investors Chief Global Strategist Seema Shah told Yahoo Finance.  

Despite the dip in jobs added during the month, the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, while economists had expected the figure to hold at 3.7%. The labor force participation rate in September ticked down slightly to 62.3% from 62.4% the prior month. 

Average hourly earnings rose 0.3% over the month, on par with both the prior reading and Wall Street expectations. On an annual basis, wages slipped slightly to 5.0% from 5.2% in August, also in line with estimates. 

“To the extent that there are any implications for the Fed, the data brings us back to where we were before last month,” Jefferies economists Thomas Simons and Aneta Markowska told Yahoo Finance. “There is not a lot of capacity for the labor force to grow, and thus, strong wage pressure is going to continue to be an issue." 

Amazon Suspends At Least 50 Workers After Fire Protest 

The Associated Press has reported that Amazon suspended at least 50 warehouse employees who refused to work their shifts following a trash compactor fire at one of its New York facilities, according to union organizers. 

The company suspended the workers, with pay, on Tuesday, a day after the fire disrupted operations at the Staten Island warehouse that voted to unionize earlier this year. 

Amazon spokesperson Paul Flaningan said in a statement that the company had asked all night shift employees to report to their shifts on Monday after the New York Fire Department certified the building as safe. 

The suspended workers were notified by email and phone that their security badges would be inactive during the duration of the probe, Derrick Palmer, the vice president of the Amazon Labor Union, said. The suspensions are in effect indefinitely as the company investigates. The number of suspended workers could rise. Seth Goldstein, an attorney for the union, said the workers intend to file unfair labor practice charges against Amazon with the National Labor Relations Board. 

Survey: Politics are Becoming Tougher to Avoid at Work 

According to a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, about 1 in 4 workers, or 26%, said they have personally experienced differential treatment (positive and negative) because of their political views or affiliation, 

The figure, from a survey of 500 workers, represents a sharp increase from 2019 when just 11 percent of workers reported differential treatment because of their political views or affiliations, reported the Washington Post. 

In addition, one in five workers reported experiencing poor treatment in the workplace by co-workers due to their political views, the survey found. 

It also recorded a small uptick in workplace arguments and altercations over politics, with 45% of workers reporting they have experienced political disagreements in the workplace, up three percentage points from 2019. Nearly half, or 46%, said they had witnessed such disagreements at work. 

Nearly 40% of workers surveyed by SHRM said that discussions of political issues have become more common in the workplace in the past three years. 

California Bill to Ease Farm Union Voting 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill that will make it easier for California farmworkers to take part in unionization votes. 

The outcome was a major victory for labor leaders and followed calls by national Democrats, including President Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for the bill to become law, according to the New York Times

The measure, Assembly Bill 2183, paves the way for farmworkers to vote by mail in union elections instead of needing to vote at election sites, often on growers’ property. 

Newsom signed the bill after his administration and labor leaders reached a “supplemental agreement” on provisions that will be introduced in the next legislative session and include, among other things, protections of farmworker confidentiality and safety. 

“California’s farmworkers are the lifeblood of our state, and they have the fundamental right to unionize and advocate for themselves in the workplace,” Newsom said in a statement. “Our state has been defined by the heroic activism of farmworkers.” 

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