On Feb. 12, Activision-Blizzard began the process of firing 8 percent of its workforce, around 800 employees, without any warning. This mass layoff came following a year of record profits for the company, around $1.8b, and massive multi-million dollar bonuses for its CEO and CFO.
Despite record profits, the company “didn’t realize its full potential,” according to Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. So the company’s C-suite executives and shareholders decided to abruptly upend nearly 800 workers’ lives in order to make an even greater profit off of the labor and stolen wages of remaining employees.
Along with quietly organizing workers at several game companies, the organization Game Workers Unite decided the next day to launch a public campaign to #FireBobbyKotick. An online petition with information and statements from Game Workers Unite was shared, and as of Feb. 17 it has received over 3,600 signatures from employees, game workers at other companies and supporters.
The hashtag quickly took off on social media and garnered the attention of several news sites. On Feb. 15 an open letter from AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer Liz Shuler was posted on the game news site Kotaku, nodding at the public campaign and stating the union federation’s willingness to assist unionization of the field.
Far from being free from the problems of cyclical mass layoffs and job instability, these issues are commonplace and pronounced within the industry. Many game developers periodically move across or even between countries in order to maintain employment because these mass layoffs are so common. Such layoffs only happen because of the greed of shareholders and executives who making a killing by killing their employees with overwork, stolen wages and severe job insecurity.
#FireBobbyKotick is more than a campaign to replace one greedy CEO with another, it is a campaign to show that the workers that produce so much value are done letting their lives be upended over and over, it is a campaign to show that they can and will organize against corporate greed, and it is a campaign to show that worker power is the force that will end the instability inherent in capitalist expansion of profit, no matter the industry.