The ABK Workers Alliance – a group of Activision Blizzard employees that has continued to push for major workplace reforms following last year’s shocking reports detailing a culture of alleged sexual harassment, assault, and inappropriate behaviour at the company – has responded to today’s news that Microsoft is buying the publisher, saying that while the move is “surprising”, it does not change the group’s goals.
The ABK Workers Alliance was established last summer, in response to a State of California lawsuit calling Activision Blizzard a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women”. Since then, the group has continued its mission to push for change at the publisher, launching a bid for unionisation, setting up a Strike Fund for employees, and calling for the removal (alongside the 1,800 employees that signed a related petition) of controversial CEO Bobby Kotick – who was said to have been aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct and mistreatment of female employees across many parts of the company “for years” in a damning Wall Street Journal report released in November.
Now, in a new statement shared on Twitter, the ABK Workers Alliance has addressed today’s buyout news, writing that while “Activision’s acquisition by Microsoft is surprising, [it] does not change the goals of the ABK Workers Alliance… We remain committed to fighting for workplace improvements and the rights of our employees regardless of who is financially in control of the company. We will continue to work alongside our allies across the gaming industry to push for measurable change in an industry that desperately needs it.”
“We called for the removal of Bobby Kotick as CEO in November for shielding abusers and he still remains CEO as of this writing,” the ABK Workers Alliance statement continues. “The strike for Raven QA is in its fifth week, and our striking staff has still not received response from leadership regarding our request to negotiate… Whatever the leadership structure of the company, we will continue our push to #EndAbuseInGaming, and appreciate the outpouring of support we’ve experienced in the last year.”
While a fresh report from the Wall Street Journal now suggests Kotick will leave Activision Blizzard once the takeover bid is finalised in June 2023, Microsoft hasn’t yet explicitly addressed the fact it’s spending $70BN to purchase a publisher thoroughly tainted by persistent allegations it fostered a work culture where sexual assault, sexual harassment, and discrimination could go unchecked – with reports so damning that Xbox head Phil Spencer even went as far as to say he was “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions” at Activision Blizzard in an email sent to employees last year.
However, it’s perhaps not a coincidence that, as the industry began to grapple with the news of its Activision Blizzard takeover, Microsoft today announced it’s set to launch an imminent review assessing the effectiveness of all its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies. This will include an analysis of policies, practices and commitments to create a safe, inclusive work environment; a summary of sexual harassment investigations since 2019 as well as data on the number of cases and their resolution; and the steps taken to hold employees accountable for sexual harassment and/or gender discrimination.
“Our culture remains our number one priority and the entire Board appreciates the critical importance of a safe and inclusive environment for all Microsoft employees,” Microsoft’s chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said at the time.