Proletariat withdraws unionization petition [UPDATED]

The CWA and Proletariat will drop their attempt to unionize after studio pushback.


Updated on 1/25/23 at 11:20 a.m.PT: Shacknews has received the following statement from Dan Ogles, a co-founder of the studio who stepped down into an engineering role after the Blizzard acquisition last year:

The rest of the article remains as originally written.

We learned last week that Spellbreak developer Proletariat would be the latest video game studio to make a unionization push. Acquired by Activision Blizzard in 2022, workers at the studio had partnered with the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the same group that helped Raven Software unionize. Unfortunately, it looks like those unionization dreams won’t materialize. Proletariat employees have withdrawn their union petition, citing confrontation from the studio.

Proletariat workers announced yesterday that it would be canceling its vote to unionize. The company blamed this on strong pushback from CEO Seth Sivak, who was adamantly against the notion. Parent company Activision Blizzard refused to acknowledge the union, deciding to leave it up to a vote with the NLRB. The workers felt that it was unlikely they’d be able to win this vote given the circumstances.

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight key art depicting a dragon and woman.

Source: Blizzard

CWA has withdrawn its request for a representation election at Activision Blizzard’s Proletariat studio. Unfortunately, Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak chose to follow Activision Blizzard’s lead and responded to the workers’ desire to form a union with confrontational tactics. Like many founders, he took the workers’ concerns as a personal attack and held a series of meetings that demoralized and disempowered the group, making a free and fair election impossible.

As we have seen at Microsoft’s Zenimax studio, there is another path forward, one that empowers workers through a free and fair process, without intimidation or manipulation by the employer. We will continue to advocate alongside workers in the video game industry for better working conditions, higher standards and a union voice.

It’s an unfortunate conclusion to one of the latest attempts to unionize within the video game industry. Most recently, Proletariat aided in the development of World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Dragonflight. We’ll be waiting to see what’s next from the team under its new parent company.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

From The Chatty
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    January 25, 2023 7:50 AM

    Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Proletariat withdraws unionization petition

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      January 25, 2023 8:10 AM

      All the reporting on this repeats the vague "demoralized and disempowered" from the CWA statement. It makes it hard to tell if something happened or they overestimated the broader support for the union. I kind of think it's the latter since union votes succeed all the time in way more fraught circumstances like Starbucks employees with zero power. It wouldn't even be the first Blizzard union. Plus there is no leaks about what happened at the meetings. People leak horrible boss stuff all the time.

      Like, if management is interfering with the vote, don't they normally hold the vote anyway and then petition the NLRB?

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      January 25, 2023 9:29 AM

      Hi, I'm a Proletariat employee and was a part of the proposed union's bargaining unit. Disclaimer: I was one of the 5 co-founders of the studio when it was formed 10 years ago, and stepped down into a non-management engineering position upon the studio getting acquired by Blizzard. Views are my own.

      Suffice it to say that the CWA's statements grossly mischaracterize what actually happened. The union campaign was extremely contentious and divisive within the group of workers from the start, and I anticipate more of them will be speaking out about this in the coming days. There were no captive-audience meetings. Managers did not discuss unionization with their employees unless requested. There were no threats or attempts at intimidation that I'm aware of; if the CWA thought otherwise they could have filed a charge of Unfair Labor Practices, as they have done many times in other campaigns.

      The most obvious explanation for withdrawing the petition was that they lacked the votes to win, but instead of accountability and acknowledgement that they didn't do enough to make their case for a studio-wide union, they are blaming the studio's leadership. Some members of the union's organizing committee even resigned or withdrew their support in the final days. The CWA apparently instructed supporters to avoid engaging with any skeptics or detractors within the bargaining unit, and when that tactic backfired, they simply withdrew and left everyone hanging in the wind.

      It's unfortunate, but I doubt the CWA really cares -- they don't really understand this industry, and I believe we were all just a stepping-stone for their larger ambitions. They've moved on to try and catch bigger fish, leaving Proletariat with a tarnished reputation and a massive amount of lost trust between coworkers that will be hard to repair.

      • rms legacy 10 years legacy 20 years mercury super mega
        January 25, 2023 9:36 AM


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        January 25, 2023 9:36 AM

        More info and longer description on what actually happened here:

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        January 25, 2023 9:51 AM

        It's very unfortunate that CWA treated you this way. I truly hope this will not dissuade you from future organizing attempts. It will take a lot of trial and error and growing pains. But labor needs exert it's power if anything is ever going to change.

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        January 25, 2023 10:44 AM

        Hey, thank you so much for providing some additional context and info. Genuinely bummed to hear that the CWA handled things this way. I'd like to request your permission to use your statement here in an update to the article. I'm Donovan, by the way, the writer of this story.

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          January 25, 2023 10:58 AM

          Hi Donovan, yes that’s fine. Please include the note about my former/current role, as I think that is important context I don’t want to be accused of improperly omitting :)

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        January 25, 2023 2:37 PM

        That’s extremely frustrating to read. Wouldn’t IATSE be a better fit??

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