In a move that NPR describes as “a major video game company first,” workers in one division of Activision Blizzard, the video game company behind franchises such as “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush,” have voted to join the Communication Workers of America.
Twenty-eight quality assurance testers at Raven Software, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, will be unionizing, according to NPR, which reports that, “while the vote directly impacts only a small number of workers, the push for unionization is being watched by many in the games and tech industry.”
“It’s a beautiful day to organize,” said Jessica Gonzalez, an organizer and former Activision employee. “We are going to celebrate and get ready to make a contract.”
In a statement coming on the heels of the announcement, Activision Blizzard spokesperson Kelvin Kiu said the company respects and believes in “the right of all employees to decide whether or not to support or vote for a union, while adding that “we believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees.”
In January of this year, Raven Software quality assurance workers announced there were forming the Game Workers Alliance union, in conjunction with the Communications Workers of America, NPR reported.
“By that time, workers had organized multiple strikes and temporary work stoppages protesting layoffs,” NPR’s Andrew Limbong wrote. “Workers say they have been frustrated for years, citing a lack of communication from management, low pay and long hours, especially right before a product launch.”
Labor organizations also point to the Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick’s response to numerous sexual misconduct allegations within the organization as a contributing factor to the decision to unionize, Limbong wrote. The company has faced numerous state and federal lawsuits alleging female employees at Activision Blizzard have faced sexual harassment and discrimination.
Google Maps Workers Resist Return-to-Office Plans
Saying they’re unable to afford the daily commute, a group of lower-paid contractors for Alphabet’s Google Maps business “are revolting against a compulsory return to office work in Seattle,” according to Fortune.
Citing a recent New York Times report, Fortune noted that roughly 60% of more than 200 employees at outsource firm Cognizant have signed a petition refusing to comply with a requirement to be in the office all five working days, beginning June 6. As of that date, they will no longer be able to access work systems from home.
“Gas is around $5 per gallon currently, and many of us in the office are not able to afford to live close to the office due to our low salaries and the high cost of housing in Bothell,” the contractors wrote. (Cognizant has an office in Bothell, a city in the Seattle metropolitan area.)
As the contractors technically work for Cognizant, and not Google, they cannot take advantage of Google’s three-day workweek policy, and are lobbying for the same type of flexibility. The Alphabet Workers Union — which has more than 900 members employed by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and its suppliers — support the contractors’ demands, according to the Times.
“The open revolt highlights [the tech] industry’s rampant use of independent contractors that do not enjoy many of the benefits of full-time staff, despite working on similar projects,” wrote Fortune’s Christiaan Hetzner, “creating a kind of two-tiered labor force.”
Federal Opportunities Improving for Employees with Disabilities
A new report from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finds that opportunities for persons with disabilities in the federal workforce are improving, “but that further progress is needed on retention and representation in leadership positions.”
The study assessed federal workers with disabilities’ demographics, hiring, advancements and separation from employment at federal agencies, discrimination complaints based on disability, and ways in which federal agencies are improving accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Representing 9.4% of federal employees, the participation by people with disabilities in the federal workforce is increasing, according to the just-issued report. In FY 2014, persons with disabilities represented 8.68% of federal workers. This increased by more than 8% to 9.42% in 2018.
Accordingly, federal agencies are raising awareness of accessibility for persons with disabilities and are improving their technological resources to make their workplaces more accessible to people with disabilities. The study also found that persons with disabilities are promoted at a rate “similar to what would be expected based on their governmentwide participation rate,” according to the EEOC.
“The EEOC is delighted to see that our support of people with disabilities has borne fruit in so many ways,” said Carlton Hadden, director of the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations, in a statement. “Clearly, though, more progress is needed. The EEOC will continue to work to advance the opportunities and well-being for this still too underutilized and underappreciated segment of our population.”
Other findings from the report point to persons with disabilities still being underrepresented in federal sector leadership. Among persons with targeted disabilities, 10.7% are in leadership positions and 89.3% are in non-leadership positions. Among persons without disabilities, 16.4% are in leadership positions and 85.6% are in non-leadership positions.
Bank of America Raises its Employee Minimum Wage to $22
The multinational investment bank and financial services holding company has raised its hourly minimum wage several times in recent years. In 2017, for example, BofA raised the hourly minimum wage for its employees to $15, increasing it to $17 two years later. The company set its minimum wage at $20 in 2020, and raised it again, to $21, last year. The latest increase will take effect at the end of June 2022, and will increase annualized salary for full-time BofA employees to more than $45,000, according to a Bank of America statement.
“Our focus on being a great place to work is core to everything we do and underscores the role our teammates play in our success,” said Sheri Bronstein, Bank of America CHRO, in a statement. “We continue to invest in our teammates and their priorities through competitive pay; industry-leading benefits and resources for physical, emotional and financial well-being; long-term career development tools and programs; and in our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the company, so that we continue to attract and retain the best talent.”