Activision Blizard is asking shareholders to vote against two proposals on the table at its upcoming annual shareholders meeting: one that would see an “employee representative” added to its board of directors and another that calls for the creation of an annual public report on the company efforts to combat abuse, harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard will naturally feature prominently at this year’s shareholders’ meeting, but the company’s handling of widespread allegations of workplace misconduct that came to light in the past year and the unionization efforts that helped catalyze are also important points.
“Activision Blizzard has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at improving our workplace culture,” said CEO Bobby Kotick in his opening remarks to the notice of the annual shareholders meeting. “Maintaining the best workplace remains our focus, and we believe that having such a workplace will give us a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining the highly in-demand talent we need to operate successfully.
“We want Activision Blizzard to be recognized as a role model for other companies to follow in the areas of inclusion, respect and safety. We’ve made this goal a top priority in the short and long term, as we believe it will allow us to deliver the best games to our customers. players and returns for our shareholders.”
Kotick said that Activision Blizzard has made “significant progress” to improve workplace conditions through “new resources, commitments and investments in our workplace with respect to preventing harassment, discrimination and retaliation”, and noted that the The company now publicly discloses data on pay equity and worker representation. All notable steps, no doubt, but at the same time, the company opposes two shareholder proposals that appear to extend these efforts even further.
One proposal recommends that an Employee Representative Director, appointed by non-management employees, be added to Activision Blizzard’s board of directors. The presence of employee representation on the board, which is “common in Europe” according to the proposal, can improve communication, employee relationships and productivity. Also very important (from a shareholder perspective, at least), a recent German study “found no negative effects on profitability or harmful changes in wages or investment levels resulting from employee representation on boards.”
Activision Blizzard’s board of directors rejected that position, however, saying that allowing employees to select their own representative to serve on the board “seeks to override the board’s careful judgment as to the criteria that should be reflected in a pool of director candidates.” “.
“The Board and the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee should have discretion in determining the director’s criteria to best serve the Company’s shareholders, as these constantly evolving criteria are necessary to help guide the Company in achieving its strategic priorities and risk management,” the board said. I wrote. “This is particularly important in light of the scope and complexity of the Company’s business. Providing non-management employees with a dedicated position on the Board using a different process for Board representation or applying a different set of qualifications would adversely affect the Board’s role. Council in this process.”
The second proposal, for an annual report detailing Activision Blizzard’s efforts to combat workplace abuse and misconduct — and the results that flow from those efforts — was met with similar disdain.
“First, the board believes that rather than diverting energy and resources to create yet another report, we should continue to respond directly to employee concerns,” the board wrote. “Focusing all of our attention on these concerns is the best way to quickly and effectively create genuine change in our workplace.
“Second, the proposed report itself, even if completed after significant time and expense, would create a set of metrics that are simply not the best measures of how the company is responding to employee concerns. The Board is committed to measuring the speed and the effectiveness of our changes accurately, not based on metrics that are not precisely tailored to our company’s situation.”
The company also cautioned that releasing this data publicly, even in aggregate, “could reveal more information about an individual employee’s allegations than that employee would like to reveal.” Deleting data at the request of the employee, on the other hand, would lead to potentially inaccurate or misleading results; in any case, the proposed reports “would divert resources from our ongoing efforts to improve our workplace culture and ensure a safe work environment.”
Responses to proposals bear more than a passing resemblance to that of Activision Blizzard reaction to talk about unionization in 2021, when he said that improvements to the work environment could be implemented more quickly and effectively without a union. Unsurprisingly, that statement drew considerable scorn on social media, but Activision Blizzard echoed it in a brief note on the progress of the unionization campaign currently underway at Raven Software.
The NLRB is sending out our ballots today at 15:00 Central Time to vote for our GWA Syndicate! We are excited to advance the process and continue our next steps to make history. #WeAreGWA pic.twitter.com/E1sSFAtP84April 29, 2022
“We deeply respect the rights of all employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union and to exercise all other rights under the National Labor Relations Act,” the notice reads. “Across the company, we believe that a direct relationship between managers and team members allows us to respond quickly and deliver the best results and opportunities for employees.”
The statement also says that approval of the petition to form a union at Raven came from “a regional director of the National Council on Labor Relations” and that Activision Blizzard is now “reviewing legal options regarding a potential appeal.” The company chose not to voluntarily recognize the union in January.
Voting on the proposals, and others, including new board appointments and executive compensation packages, will take place during the annual shareholders meeting on June 21. vote”, but “ultimately has a duty to act in what it believes to be the best interest of the Company and all of its shareholders”.