Activision-Blizzard Worker Urges FTC, DOJ to Consider Impact of Corporate Consolidation on Workers When it Comes to Big Tech Mergers

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) held a listening forum to hear from those who have been impacted by mergers in the technology industry

Brice Arnold, a researcher at Activision-Blizzard, warned of limited job mobility and suppressed wages in light of Microsoft’s planned acquisition of the game developer

WASHINGTON, DC – Today Brice Arnold, a Design Researcher at game development company Activision-Blizzard for two years, testified at a hearing held by the FTC and DOJ analyzing the firsthand impacts of mergers and acquisitions in the technology industry. As Activision-Blizzard's planned acquisition by Microsoft is set to be reviewed by the FTC, Arnold called on regulators to investigate potential harms to workers within the gaming industry.

“My skills and experience as a Researcher in the Design Department for Activision are quite specialized in the video game industry,” Arnold testified. “Understanding design trends, what keeps audiences entertained, and the languages are highly sought after. You could have a candidate with five years of research experience at Google and a candidate with five years at a small game company and the candidate with gaming experience would be preferred. Given the ongoing consolidation in the video game industry, there are fewer potential employers for my specialized skills.”

“Video game workers already face many problems in our jobs that are made worse by employers having even more power. We are consistently paid less despite having the same job title and level of experience as workers in other tech industries. My coworkers and I have been organizing to make Activision Blizzard a better workplace. Hundreds of us walked out last year to protest sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Now we're working to form a union to have competitive pay, benefits, and equity at least on par with other technology companies.”

“With Microsoft's impending takeover of Activision Blizzard, workers face a lot of uncertainty.

We believe that the impacts on workers need to be taken into account and if a deal is bad for workers, it should either be blocked or made to include enforceable commitments to respect workers' rights. Ultimately, workers need a seat at the table. We appreciate that the FTC and DOJ are looking much more seriously at labor market outcomes from mergers,” Arnold concluded.

In April, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ), urging them to include impacts on labor markets and workers as the agencies prepare to revise guidelines governing the antitrust review process. In order to preserve fairness in labor market competition, CWA recommends assessing how proposed mergers exacerbate corporate dominance over workers, including through the suppression of wages, restrictive contracts like non-competes that reduce worker mobility, and denial of workers’ ability to exercise their legal rights by imposing non-disclosure agreements, mandatory arbitration agreements and engaging in practices like union-busting.

Currently, a narrow consumer welfare standard has been the cornerstone of antitrust analysis, which prioritizes impacts on consumer prices and too often takes corporations at their word that consolidation will benefit the public.