Employees in gaming giant Activision Blizzard organized a walk today, interrupting a week of escalating tensions over the way executives handled allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment in a company of 10,000 people.
Outside the Activision Blizzard office in Irvine, California, on Wednesday morning, employees held banners with messages such as “Trust Women,” “Commit to Equality,” “Privilege of Male Nervousness,” and “Fight the Bad Guys in the Game / Fight the Bad guys IRL “. Cars drove with a trumpet. On the internet, the hashtag #ActiBlizzWalkout has been in trend like a title fan World of Warcraft i Supervising expressed overwhelming support, including promises to boycott today’s games in solidarity.
More than 200 people attended the exit event, based on photos posted online. An unknown number of other employees remotely participated in the work stoppage.
“We love our job, but our business doesn’t love us,” one Activision employee told WIRED on the eve of going out. “It simply came to our notice then. So we are trying to change that. ”
Today ‘s departure was partly driven by the reaction of Activision Blizzard’ s management to explosive lawsuit filed last week by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The lawsuit alleges widespread inequality in the workplace, from unequal pay for a similar job to a culture of leadership that allowed sexual harassment and even avenged the women who responded.
In response, Activision Blizzard issued a statement saying the company values diversity, but also criticizing DFEH’s two-year investigation as “the irresponsible behavior of irresponsible state bureaucrats who oust many of California’s top state-owned companies.” The same tone was struck by Activision Blizzard’s chief compliance officer Fran Townsend, a former security adviser to George W. Bush. In a letter she sent to staff last week, acquired by Axios, described the lawsuit as “really worthless and irresponsible”, and the accusations in it as “factually incorrect” or “old”. She also said she was “proud” to be part of a company that has “a tough approach to an inappropriate or hostile work environment.” Company president J. Allen Brack, who is listed in the lawsuit, called the allegations “extremely worrying” in another internal email by Bloomberg.
Employees – especially those who have personal experience of sexual harassment and discrimination in the company – were upset to hear what they considered unempathetic, even dissipative responses. On Monday, Activision Blizzard employees wrote an open letter condemning management statements, calling them “disgusting and offensive to everything we think our company should stand for.” The letter notes that employees have lost faith that “leaders will put employee safety above their interests” and have asked Townsend to step down from its role as executive sponsor of the ABK Women’s Network. By Tuesday night, the letter had over 3,200 signatures from current and former employees.
“The lawsuit brought to light feelings of isolation from individuals who for the longest time felt like they were alone or could retaliate,” said an Activision employee and a representative of the abandonment movement, who is anonymous for fear of repercussions. “I think he gives a voice to those without a voice.” To support these individuals, employees began to organize across Blizzard, Activision and King – all under the umbrella of Activision Blizzard -.
“The movement was throughout the company, a joint effort among hundreds and hundreds of people,” says a Blizzard employee and a representative of the walking movement WIRED. The employee adds that there are currently no talks about joining unions. Organizers announced the walk on Tuesday. They also issued a statement of intent for action, as well as several requests, including: exchanging information on employee benefits to ensure a fair salary; employment policies that better promote diversity; and bringing in a third-party working group selected by staff to review human resources and executive staff.