Some employees at Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering publisher Wizards of the Coast say they’re frustrated with owner Hasbro’s response to Friday’s Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, calling it “lackluster” and asking the company to reconsider its stance.
Multiple gaming companies have expressed support for the right to choose, some of which said they’re expanding healthcare coverage to support workers that must travel to receive abortion care. Since Friday, game studios such as Bethesda Softworks, Insomniac Games, and Electronic Arts have issued public statements in support of reproductive rights. Others, such as Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive, have declined to comment on the ruling. Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast have similarly declined to comment publicly on social media channels; instead, Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks and chief people officer Najuma Atkinson sent a statement to staff on Monday.
In it, Hasbro executives wrote that the company has a “long history” of access to healthcare benefits, “including reproductive healthcare and other critical media services, regardless of where you live in the United States.” It also mentions “new enhanced travel benefits,” but does not explain further. Cocks and Atkinson also pointed workers toward the company’s mental health benefits, which include the Headspace app.
Wizards of the Coast employees are upset, however, because some of the language avoids disavowing the Supreme Court decision and asks employees to respect both sides.
“We know there are many perspectives over what is at stake with the overturn of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court announced last week, ”Cocks and Atkinson wrote. “It is important we continue to respect all employees’ perspectives in the workplace.”
They continued: “Let’s continue to prioritize and nurture inclusion at Hasbro. Regardless of your individual views, this is a time to demonstrate understanding, empathy, and kindness for each other. ”
A full copy of the internal memo to staff is reprinted below:
We are committed to fostering an inclusive workplace where our colleagues feel welcomed, respected and represented.
We are also committed to, and have a long history of, providing comprehensive health care benefits to our colleagues. We affirm our commitment to providing consistent and equal access to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare and other critical medical services, regardless of where you live in the United States. This applies to you, your spouse or domestic partner 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 remain strictly confidential. If you have concerns or questions on the situation and what resources are available, we encourage you to speak with your HR business partner.
We know that this may be a difficult time for many of you and want to remind everyone that we offer several mental health resources, including counseling and virtual therapy options, that can be found here. The health, wellbeing and safety of all our colleagues is of utmost importance for us.
Let’s continue to prioritize and nurture inclusion at Hasbro. Regardless of your individual views, this is a time to demonstrate understanding, empathy, and kindness for each other.
Speaking to Polygon under condition of anonymity, multiple Wizards of the Coast workers said these statements legitimized anti-abortion views that are dangerous to people. “This call angered many employees, myself included, who feel that this is legitimizing those who seek to strip marginalized groups of their rights and pointedly ignoring the deadly consequences this Supreme Court decision will have on reproductive health,” one worker told Polygon.
Another current Wizards of the Coast employee said that while the letter was “inoffensive,” some workers are upset over “lackluster” or inadequate healthcare options. “To depend on those things without actually providing new resources or better resources is really not enough for a lot of people,” that employee said.
On Monday night, a Twitter account, Wizards for Justice, identifying itself as a group of Wizards of the Coast employees, posted a statement denouncing Hasbro’s internal statement. Polygon has not been able to confirm the authenticity of the Twitter account or how many employees are involved. At least 13 current Wizards of the Coast workers that Polygon spoke to, from various parts of the company, said they were not aware of a statement or potential walkout before it went up. Some of those workers said, however, that they supported the intent of the Wizards for Justice message. Some noted that Wizards of the Coast largely operates remotely, and workers were hesitant to communicate using Hasbro’s Microsoft Teams accounts to talk about the Twitter account and its message.
We, as employees of Wizards of the Coast, are frustrated, disappointed, and completely dissatisfied with Hasbro’s out of touch, tone-deaf, and lackluster response to Friday’s Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. (1/11)#wotcstaff https://t.co/6pUSHKszpa
– Wizards for Justice (@WizardsJustice) June 28, 2022
In the letter published to Twitterthe group said some workers are “frustrated, disappointed, and completely dissatisfied” with Hasbro’s response to the Supreme Court decision.
“Any messaging that suggests or implies that there are other, valid opinions and approaches to this further marginalization of already at risk groups on their bodily autonomy is unnecessary, invalid, and damaging,” Wizards for Justice wrote. “Such messaging only seeks to protect and validate those that seek to control, and is the wrong direction for any organization with as diverse a customer base as ours.”
The Wizards of Justice account called on Wizards of the Coast employees to walk out of work on Wednesday to “reflect, nurture mental health, and show solidarity that Hasbro will not.”
One Wizards of the Coast worker said they and their team plan on logging off on Wednesday in support, but were unsure whether others would do the same. Neither Hasbro nor Wizards of the Coast has responded to Polygon’s request for comment.
The cultural impact of Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons cannot be understated; both games have influenced game-making for decades, with tens of millions of players combined. Wizards of the Coast has also been huge a revenue generator for Hasbro, which acquired the company in 1999. The success of its marquee brands helped the Rhode Island-based company to top $ 1 billion in revenue in 2021, with Wizards’ business unit accounting for 72% of Hasbro’s operating profit for the year. Building on that success, the company also has an animated series and a major motion picture due this year.
Hasbro itself has three main subsidiaries: Consumer Products, Entertainment, and Wizards & Digital. The company employs 5,000 people, by its count. Wizards of the Coast is located in Washington state, but has offices around the country, including in Texas, one of many states where abortion is now illegal.
Over the past few years, social media has become an increasingly common tool for workers to organize and air grievances with their employers. Social media accounts from workers at Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, Riot Games, Cards Against Humanity, and others have popped up as a way for workers to collectively express their opinions about their workplaces. Operating as a collective voice, these social media accounts give workers the anonymity to speak freely about their struggles. That anonymity also complicates verifying an account’s authenticity or understanding the scope of the movement, but some workers often feel it’s the best or only option to publicly discuss issues related to the workplace.
Activision Blizzard QA workers at Raven Software used the momentum from their social media outreach to garner support for their eventual union, which was certified last month.