A vaccine above a shrugging emoticon.
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

The perk you shouldn't mess with

Source Code

Good morning! As tech workers head back to offices en masse, what can companies learn from each other? Well, Activision Blizzard is providing one early lesson: Vaccines mandates seem to be very important to workers. I’m Allison Levitsky, and I for some reason cut back on caffeine this year. Don’t ask me why; I miss it.

Also, inspired by Elon Musk’s ascension at Twitter, we want to know what kind of person you would like on your company’s board. What attributes should they have, exactly? Read the bottom for more, then respond to this email and let us know.

Don't mess with the mandate

As tech companies try to ease workers back to the office with perks like free scooters, it turns out there's one thing employees find to be really important: a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Activision Blizzard learned how important mandates are the hard way. The company announced it wouldn’t require proof of vaccination, so its employees decided to walk out. It quickly reversed course after the workers announced that walkout: The company said it would be up to the leaders of subsidiaries Activision Publishing, Blizzard and King to set guidance for their respective employees. Blizzard HQ and three quality assurance offices have already reimposed their mandates as of this week.

  • But more than 117 employees still walked off the job, remotely, in what they called a “digital demonstration” on Monday. The ABK Workers Alliance, an organized group of employees within Activision, said that the group demands that the company unilaterally impose a vaccine mandate on all of the company’s studios, as well as make remote work “an open and equitable option for all employees.” (The company is calling its workers back to the office in June.)
  • Even before workers planned a walkout, Activision’s leadership had indicated openness to reinstating a vaccine mandate if COVID cases rose again. In a message to employees last week, Activision’s chief administrative officer, Brian Bulatao, had encouraged employees to still submit their proof of vaccination so that the company could “act quickly — and pivot if necessary — if we see a future spike in cases.” That pivot likely came sooner than Bulatao expected.
  • Blizzard will reportedly continue requiring vaccines for at least the next few months, and 80% of its employees in Irvine, California, Albany, N.Y., and Austin, Texas, have turned in proof of vaccination.

Tech workers have a lot of power here. Employees at big tech companies, who have been productive at home throughout the pandemic, are demanding more flexibility. They also want to feel safe at the office after years at home, and a vaccine mandate is the most obvious way to ensure that.

  • COVID case counts may be down, but tech workers largely seem to support vaccine mandates: The rules didn’t spark much employee pushback when they were imposed last year.
  • One of the biggest issues is whether workers are required to return to an office. With remote work flexibility, employees may be less likely to protest a vaccine mandate reversal.

And so far, tech companies are mainly treading carefully. While corporations like Starbucks and Adidas have rolled back their mandates, tech companies seem to be holding the line. Intel rolled back its vaccine mandate in January, after the Supreme Court threw out the White House’s vaccine mandate rule for large employers, but otherwise rollbacks have mostly been around the edges.

  • Meta removed boosters from its requirements in early April, citing the CDC guidance that only the primary series of vaccination is required to be “fully vaccinated.” (A booster brings you “up to date” with vaccination, according to the CDC, but Meta won’t require that.)
  • Neither Apple nor Amazon ever imposed vaccines at the office; Apple only requires unvaccinated workers to get tested before coming in.
  • And Google now only requires vaccines for individuals who come to its offices, unless they have an approved accommodation. (That means fully remote workers who never go to the office don’t need to be vaccinated.)

If employers take anything away from a small revolt at Activision Blizzard, it’s that if you’re calling workers back to the office, think twice before messing with the mandate too much.

— Allison Levitsky (email | twitter)

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People are talking

Joe Biden touted unions and targeted Amazon:

  • “And by the way, by the way, Amazon here we come. Watch. Watch.”

Richard Branson wants to take a trip with SpaceX one day:

  • “Hopefully, I’ll be able to go up on one of [Elon Musk’s] spaceships one day, and he’ll be able to go up on one of ours.”

Intel software is helping athletes like Purdue University outfielder Cam Thompson up their game:

  • “It made me a whole lot faster, where I’m close to the top in the fastest on the team now.”

Making moves

JD.com’s founder Richard Liu stepped down as CEO. Xu Lei, the company's president, will take on the role.

Meta’s F8 developer conference isn’t happening. The company said it’s taking a break this year to “gear up on new initiatives.”

Binance.US is now a $4.5 billion company. All eyes are on an IPO.

Luis Felipe Visoso joined Splunk’s board. Visoso is the SVP and CFO of Unity Software.

Clay Wilkes, Michel Combes and Carlos Medeiros are leaving SoFi’s board. Wilkes founded Galileo Financial Technologies, while Combes and Medeiros are from SoftBank.

Alaska May is Open Systems’ new chief people officer. May was most recently the SVP of HR for International Markets.

In other news

Meta is looking to create a virtual currency in the metaverse that employees are currently calling “Zuck Bucks,” sources told the Financial Times.

Berkshire Hathaway has taken a major stake in HP. It now owns about 11% of the company, a stake worth about $4.2 billion based on the stock's closing price on Wednesday. HP shares were up in premarket trading on the news.

Pinterest is targeting climate change misinformation. The platform will remove the misinfo and conspiracy theories from both content and ads.

Dozens of gig workers have been killed on the job in the U.S. in the past five years, according to a new report. Of those killed, more than half were people of color.

Amazon is the No. 1 place to work for career growth, according to a LinkedIn report. The company considered pillars like company stability, gender diversity and external opportunity.

Google got rid of a bunch of Android apps after it discovered they were secretly harvesting user data like location information, email and phone numbers.

Better.com is looking to fire even more people, this time through a separation plan that would give employees 60 days of severance pay and health insurance if they agree to leave.

Will Smith’s famous Oscars slap became a memecoin, because of course it did. It’s called the Will Smith Inu, and it’s already garnered millions in trading — but its value has now fallen back to nearly zero.

President Joe Biden’s nonprofit does TikTok now. The group's new handle is @buildingbacktogether.

Who would you want on your board?

Parag Agrawal seemingly wanted Elon Musk. Which is an interesting choice! A visionary, sure. Absurdly successful, you bet. But also cantankerous, rule-breaking and highly opinionated. Maybe you think they’re all good attributes for a board member! Or maybe you don’t.

So we wondered: What kind of person would you like on your company’s board? What should they be good at? What attributes don’t you want? And do you have a dream board member? Respond to this email and let us know, and we’ll round up our favorites in the Sunday edition of Source Code.

A MESSAGE FROM DUCKDUCKGO

Tracking is a comprehensive problem — over 80% of websites, apps and emails contain third-party trackers. Because of that, people need a multi-pronged privacy solution. DuckDuckGo’s all-in-one privacy app can be used as an everyday browser with multiple features built-in, including private search, tracker blocking, encryption, and email protection.

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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