More than 100 Activision Blizzard employees took part in a virtual walkout Monday as video game studio Santa Monica joined a growing wave of companies lifting COVID-19 vaccination requirements while urging workers to return to the office.
Employees at the studio best known for its World of Warcraft and Call of Duty franchises who took part in the walkout regarded the day as an unpaid strike day. Some joined a Zoom call, which was a virtual protest gathering, and spoke out on social media.
The strike came in response to the company’s announcement Thursday that employees no longer need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to work in the office, according to an email from employees of Chief Administrative Officer Brian Bulatao, published on Twitter became.
The email quoted companies and venues across the US that had lifted their vaccination requirements, saying it was “important to align our site protocols with local guidelines.”
Big companies like Adidas, Starbucks and Intel have lifted their vaccination orders for workers in recent months after the Supreme Court overturned the Biden administration’s vaccination or testing rule for companies with at least 100 workers in January. In California, a bill proposed by the Assembly that would require all employees and independent contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment was discontinued on March 29.
Even United Airlines, which implemented the airline industry’s first mandatory vaccination for its employees in August and put 2,200 employees on vaccination exemptions on unpaid leave or other roles, is allowing unvaccinated workers to return to their old jobs.
Activision Blizzard’s announcement “was a shock to everyone,” said Ada-Claire Cripps, senior software engineer for Battle.net and online products at Blizzard.
Cripps said she and other employees were already dissatisfied with the company’s previous position upon returning to the office, suggesting all workers would eventually default to in-person work unless they requested an exemption.
“We’ve been able to do our jobs without having to be physically in the office, so this notion that we have to be there seems a little unfounded,” Cripps said.
With the added immunization mandate lifted and a spouse at home in a risk category for COVID, Cripps said she was even more reluctant to return to the office.
“I don’t want to have to go into a workplace where I don’t know who I can trust not to make me sick,” she said.
An Activision Blizzard spokesman denied that the company plans to require all employees to eventually return to the office, saying the majority of employees are subject to a voluntary return-to-office policy.
“When employees will return to the office and what their remote vs. in-person schedule will be will vary by business unit and role,” the spokesperson said.
Staff say they are frustrated by the lack of clarity about how their return to the office will be handled and why some staff can continue to work remotely while others cannot.
Andrew Carl, a senior systems designer at Blizzard’s Albany, NY office formerly of Vicarious Visions, described the process for requesting a return-to-office exemption as “cumbersome and doesn’t seem to be applied equally.”
Carl said several employees working in quality assurance departments were told they could not continue working remotely and others were told they must have a diagnosed medical condition to request a return-to-office exemption.
A Better ABK, a labor organizing group at Activision Blizzard, announced plans to hold a workers’ strike on Friday and called for reversing the decision to lift vaccinations, offering remote work as a permanent solution, and allowing individual employees to choose whether you want to work in the office or from home.
Shortly after the strike was announced, Bulatao sent out another email clarifying that although the company-wide vaccination mandate had been lifted, individual studios and locations could still implement office-wide worker vaccination requirements. A company spokesman confirmed that Blizzard’s Irvine office, as well as quality assurance offices in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas, would continue to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to work in person.
Workers are still demanding that the vaccination mandate be reinstated across the company and that Activision have an “open and fair” return-to-the-office policy.
“We want to make sure everyone is as safe as possible and will be further protected through vaccination and testing,” Cripps said.
Anthony Santella, a professor of health administration policy at the University of New Haven, said he’s concerned about the “all-or-nothing” approach some companies are taking to COVID-19 safety measures. Though COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining in parts of the country, increased travel in the summer months and emerging variants make lifting of safety measures premature, he said.
Some mitigation measures like daily symptom reporting and the physical social distancing requirement that some companies still have could be relaxed, Santella said, but “vaccination requirements are a non-starter for me.”
Strikes at Activision Blizzard have become almost a regular occurrence over the past year as a spate of news reports detail them Allegations of sexual abuse and discrimination. workforce tried to remove Chief Executive Bobby Kotick according to the Wall Street Journal reported that he was aware of several alleged incidents of sexual misconduct but did not report them to the board. The employees also went out in protest Dismissal of several quality assurance employees at the company’s Raven Software Studio in Wisconsin.
“Over the past year, Activision has had several strikes because management refused to put the safety and security of its workers ahead of profits,” said Beth Allen, a spokeswoman for the Communication Workers of America, a national union that works with the Organizing efforts have been helpful among Activision Blizzard employees. “We believe all workers should have a voice on important health and safety issues, especially during the pandemic.”
https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-04-04/activision-blizzard-walkout-vaccine-mandate-removal Activision Employees Quit Over Vaccination Order Cancellation; It was a shock to everyone.