Wizards of the Coast staff dismiss Hasbro’s response to abortion rights


Wizards of the Coast staff dismiss Hasbro's response to abortion rights

Some employees at Wizards of the Coast, publishers of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering, say they are frustrated by owner Hasbro’s response to Friday’s Supreme Court decision bringing Roe v. Wade lifted it, calling them “lackluster” and urging the company to reconsider its stance.

Several gambling companies have expressed support for the right to vote, some saying they are expanding healthcare to support workers who have to travel to get abortion treatments. Since Friday, game studios including Bethesda Softworks, Insomniac Games and Electronic Arts have made public statements in support of reproductive rights. Others, like Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive, have declined to comment on the ruling. Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast have also declined to comment publicly on social media channels; Instead, Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks and Chief People Officer Najuma Atkinson sent a statement to employees on Monday.

In it, Hasbro executives wrote that the company has a “long history” of providing access to health services, “including reproductive health care and other critical media services, regardless of where you live in the United States.” It also mentions “new enhanced travel benefits” but doesn’t elaborate further. Cocks and Atkinson also alerted employees to the company’s mental health benefits, which include the Headspace app.

However, Wizards of the Coast staff are upset because some of the language avoids denying the Supreme Court decision and urges staff to respect both sides.

“We know there are many perspectives on what happened to the fall of Roe v. Wade is at stake by the Supreme Court announced last week,” wrote Cocks and Atkinson. “It is important that we continue to respect the perspectives of all employees in the workplace.”

They continued, “Let’s continue to prioritize and promote inclusion at Hasbro. Regardless of your individual views, this is a time to demonstrate understanding, empathy and kindness towards one another.”

A full copy of the internal memo to staff is reprinted below:

We are committed to promoting an inclusive workplace where our colleagues feel welcome, respected and represented.

We are also committed to and have a long history of providing comprehensive health care services to our colleagues. We reaffirm our commitment to providing consistent and equitable access to health care, including reproductive health care and other critical medical services, regardless of where you live in the United States. This applies to you, your spouse or significant other and any dependents and would cover new enhanced travel benefits. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that decisions about your personal healthcare are kept in the strictest confidence. If you have any concerns or questions about the situation and what resources are available, we encourage you to speak to your HR Business Partner.

We know this can be a difficult time for many of you, and we want to remind everyone that we offer a variety of mental health resources, including counseling and virtual therapy options, which you can find here. The health, well-being and safety of all of our colleagues is of the utmost importance to us.

Let’s continue to prioritize and promote inclusion at Hasbro. Regardless of your individual views, this is a time to demonstrate understanding, empathy, and kindness towards one another.

Speaking to Polygon on condition of anonymity, several Wizards of the Coast employees said the statements legitimized anti-abortion views that were dangerous to people. “This call has angered many staffers, including myself, who believe it legitimizes those who seek to deprive marginalized groups of their rights and who plainly ignore the deadly reproductive health implications of this Supreme Court decision,” he said an employee opposite Polygon.

Another current Wizards of the Coast employee said that while the letter was “harmless,” some workers were upset about “lackluster” or inadequate health care. “Relying on these things without actually providing new resources or better resources really isn’t enough for a lot of people,” said this employee.

On Monday night, a Twitter account, Wizards for Justice, which identified itself as a group of Wizards of the Coast employees, released a statement denouncing Hasbro’s internal statement. Polygon could not confirm the authenticity of the Twitter account or the number of employees involved. At least 13 current Wizards of the Coast employees that Polygon spoke to from different parts of the company said they were unaware of a statement or a possible strike before they went up. However, some of those workers said they supported the intent of the Wizards for Justice message. Some noted that Wizards of the Coast operates largely remotely and staff were reluctant to communicate through Hasbro’s Microsoft Teams accounts to talk about the Twitter account and its message.

In the letter published on Twitterthe group said some workers were “frustrated, disappointed and utterly dissatisfied” with Hasbro’s response to the Supreme Court decision.

“Any message that suggests or implies that there are other, valid opinions and approaches to this further marginalization of already vulnerable groups in terms of their bodily autonomy is unnecessary, invalid and harmful,” wrote Wizards for Justice. “Messaging like this only aims to protect and validate those who seek control and is the wrong direction for any organization with a customer base as diverse as ours.”

The Wizards of Justice account urged Wizards of the Coast employees to leave work Wednesday to “reflect, promote mental health, and show solidarity, which Hasbro will not do.”

A Wizards of the Coast employee said she and her team plan to sign off in support on Wednesday, but weren’t sure others would do the same. Neither Hasbro nor Wizards of the Coast have responded to Polygon’s request for comment.

The cultural impact of Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons cannot be underestimated; Both games have influenced game development for decades, with tens of millions of players combined. Wizards of the Coast was also a huge revenue generator for Hasbro, which acquired the company in 1999. The success of its marquee brands helped the Rhode Island-based company generate over $1 billion in revenue in 2021, with Wizards’ business unit responsible for 72% of Hasbro’s operating profit for the year. Building on that success, the company also has an animated series and a major movie planned for this year.

Hasbro itself has three main subsidiaries: Consumer Products, Entertainment, and Wizards & Digital. According to the company, it employs 5,000 people. Wizards of the Coast is based in Washington state but has offices across the country, including in Texas, one of many states where abortion is now illegal.

In recent years, social media has become an increasingly popular tool for workers to organize and raise grievances with their employers. Social media accounts from workers at Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, Riot Games, Cards Against Humanity and others have sprung up to give workers a chance to collectively voice their opinions about their workplace. As a collective voice, these social media accounts give workers the anonymity to speak freely about their struggles. This anonymity also makes it difficult to verify an account’s authenticity or understand the scope of the movement, but some workers often find public discussion of workplace-related issues to be the best or only option.

Activision Blizzard QA staff at Raven Software used the momentum of their social media contacts to rally support for their eventual union, which was certified last month.

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