Employees of video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. are comparing their salaries after an internal company survey revealed that more than half of the company’s workers were unhappy with their pay. Activision Blizzard had promised pay increases after conducting a pay equity study, but many game workers have expressed frustration about the raises provided.
The high ratio of CEO-to-worker pay continues to be an issue of concern at Activision Blizzard. Last year, Activision Blizzard’s CEO Robert Kotick made more than $30 million in total compensation, or 319 times the company’s median employee pay. The company's disclosed CEO-to-worker pay ratio did not budge at all between 2018 and 2019.
Even Activision Blizzard’s shareholders are upset. Proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services noted that “the CEO’s legacy employment agreement provides numerous overlapping pay opportunities, which raise concerns over potential excessive payouts in the future.” At this year’s shareholder meeting, 43% of votes were cast against the company’s executive pay.
Working people are better able to negotiate a fair return on our work when we have information on rates of play in our workplace. Comparing salaries also can help prevent unlawful pay discrimination based on race or gender. Although 60% of surveyed tech workers reported pressure from their employer to keep salary information secret, sharing pay data is a legally protected right under U.S. labor law.
Game workers create the content that makes video game companies like Activision Blizzard so profitable. The action by game workers at Activision Blizzard is a powerful reminder that working people can reduce pay inequities by coming together collectively. That’s why last year I wrote an open letter pledging our solidarity as a labor movement with game worker organizing efforts.
As Activision Blizzard’s game workers have shown, pay transparency can be the first step to negotiating pay fairness in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if you are a computer programmer or a factory worker; all working people deserve fair pay and a voice at work.