Activision fired two testers for ‘profane’ language, now a major tech union is filing charges

The CWA alleges that the firing was about the pair’s union activities, not curse words.


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The Communications Workers of America (CWA), the labour union behind several recent organising efforts at Activision Blizzard development studios, is filing charges directly against Activision CEO Bobby Kotick. Spotted by Kotaku (opens in new tab), the CWA alleges that the company violated the law when it fired two QA testers last February.

The fired QA testers were two of many employees who took umbrage with Activision’s recent attempts to get its employees back in the office. The CWA says that staff have taken issue with the back-to-the-office plans, “citing cost of living concerns and the impact it would have on their co-workers who might be forced out of their jobs”. The fired workers, in particular, expressed their dissatisfaction “using strong language”. Activision, whose CEO once told an assistant he was going to have her killed (opens in new tab), fired them for it.

The CWA says that outbursts and strong language were protected by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) until 2020, when the Trump administration “systematically rolled back workers’ rights”. In the charges it’s filed, the CWA alleges that the firing actually happened in response to the employees’ “engagement in protected, concerted and union activity,” and that Activision “improperly denied a request to have a coworker witness the disciplinary meeting” in which the pair’s firing took place.

In a statement to PC Gamer, an Activision spokesperson said that “Protesting doesn’t mean having the right to abuse, harass, or use slurs against colleagues,” in reference to the strong language apparently used by the fired staffers. “We don’t tolerate that kind of behaviour and we’re disappointed the CWA is advocating for it,” said Activision.

Unsurprisingly, the CWA is unconvinced by those kinds of ripostes. “Firing two employees for joining with their co-workers to express concern around hasty return to office policies is retaliation, point blank,” said a CWA spokesperson, calling Activision an “unscrupulous” employer and declaring that “workers should have the right to express themselves”.

The relationship between the CWA and Activision is long, fraught, and almost entirely antagonistic at this point. The two entities have hashed out countless battles over Activision’s workers (opens in new tab) before the NLRB in the last year alone, with the labour board usually finding in favour of the CWA. Most recently, the CWA even penned a letter to EU regulators (opens in new tab), imploring them to greenlight Microsoft’s acquisition of the company, since it believes dealing with Microsoft would be immensely preferable to contending with Activision’s “management intransigence”. That the Microsoft acquisition should go through is, perhaps, the only thing the union and Activision’s executives agree on.

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