Elizabeth Warren backs union at World of Warcraft studio Proletariat

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Staff at Activision Blizzard-owned video game studio Proletariat — whose name is a term for the working class — announced their intention to form a union in December of last year. “Well, what’d you expect?” the Proletariat Workers Alliance wrote on Twitter at the time. Earlier this week, however, Proletariat leadership shared an update: Instead of voluntarily recognizing the union, it will conduct an anonymous vote through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Proletariat owner Activision Blizzard has been accused of employing union-busting tactics in its negotiations with two other subsidiaries that have voted to unionize, Raven Software and Blizzard Albany. The 57 workers in the union did, however, gain the approval of one powerful figure: United States senator Elizabeth Warren. On Twitter, Warren — the senior senator from Massachusetts, where Proletariat is based — said she’s firmly in the union’s corner.

“To the workers at Proletariat in Boston, I stand with you as you organize with [the Communications Workers of America] to form a union and fight for fair benefits and working conditions,” she wrote. “When workers organize, workers win.”

“Definitely didn’t have ‘Actual Senator Elizabeth Warren tweets about the place you work at’ on my 2023 bingo card, but here we are,” tweeted one Proletariat worker in response.

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The Proletariat Workers Alliance was founded in response to the studio’s planned acquisition by Activision Blizzard, which in recent years has faced widespread criticism for issues ranging from sexism to crunch.

“Everyone in the video game industry knows Activision Blizzard’s reputation for creating a hostile work environment, so earlier this year, when we heard that Blizzard was planning to acquire Proletariat, we started to discuss how we could protect the great culture we have created here,” said Dustin Yost, a software engineer at Proletariat, in a December press release announcing the formation of the union. “By forming a union and negotiating a contract, we can make sure that we are able to continue doing our best work and create innovative experiences at the frontier of game development.”

Last year, Warren was one of several senators to sign a letter urging the FTC to closely scrutinize Microsoft’s pending $68.7 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard, which the FTC has since sued to block. Microsoft, however, has chosen a strategy of engaging and cooperating with unions: Earlier this month, it voluntarily recognized the North American video game industry’s largest union yet, comprising 306 quality assurance workers at ZeniMax, a studio owned by the tech giant.

Microsoft previously entered a labor neutrality agreement with the Communications Workers of America, which according to Microsoft president Brad Smith means that “we respect the right of our employees to make informed decisions on their own” and that “we don’t try to put a thumb on the scale to influence or pressure them.”



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