Video game workers form Microsoft’s first US labor union

Video game workers form Microsoft’s first US labor union

A group of videogame testers has created Microsoft’s first labor organization in the U.S.A. This union will also be the largest in videogame industry.

The Communications Workers of America announced Tuesday that the majority of 300 quality assurance workers at Microsoft’s ZeniMax Studios had voted to join their union.

Microsoft had already indicated to the CWA that it would accept the formation a union at its Maryland-based gaming subsidiary. This fulfills a promise it made to increase public support for Activision Blizzard’s $68.7billion acquisition.

Microsoft purchased ZeniMax for $7.5 million in 2021,, giving the Xbox-maker full control over ZeniMax’s well known game publishing division Bethesda Softworks as well as popular games franchises like Fallout, Doom, and The Elder Scrolls.

Senior video game tester Wayne Dayberry stated in an interview with The Associated Press, that the unionization campaign started before Microsoft took control and reflected workplace concerns common at video games companies.

” Quality assurance departments in the industry are treated poorly, pay very little and are treated as disposable cogs,” Dayberry, who has been working at ZeniMax’s Rockville headquarters, Maryland, on games like Fallout, Prey, and The Evil Within for five years.

“There is not much dignity involved in it,” said he. “That’s something that we’re trying to show people in industry who are in similar situations, that if they can do it, then they can too The ongoing bid by Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard, a California-based gaming giant, accelerated the unionization campaign. Microsoft, which is located in Redmond, Washington, signed a June agreement with the CWA union to remain neutral if Activision Blizzard workers wanted to form a union.

The worker-friendly pledge was made to address concerns of President Joe Biden regarding the labor implications from large business mergers. However, it did not stop the Federal Trade Commission suing last month to block Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The antitrust case was heard for the first time Tuesday. It could continue for months.

Two small units made up of Activision Blizzard workers became the first to certify unions in Middleton (Wisconsin) and Albany (New York) last year. The third, Boston-based Activision Blizzard subsidiary Proletariat filed a Dec. 27 petition to the National Labor Relations Board in order to unionize its 57 employees.

Microsoft specifically applied the legally binding neutrality agreement to Activision Blizzard employees after the merger was closed. It also reflects Microsoft’s wider principles on handling unionization. This is still rare in the tech and gaming sectors.

Dayberry said Microsoft’s neutrality promise gave workers confidence that there wouldn’t be any “retaliation or union-busting, which there has been none of.”

Microsoft’s green light allowed the ZeniMax union certification to go through a third-party arbitrator rather than the lengthier process typically overseen by the NLRB. A weekslong election period ended on Dec. 31 and was formally certified Tuesday. Microsoft stated in a statement that they recognize the union.

“They have stood by their word all along,” stated Beth Allen, spokesperson for CWA. It’s quite significant. Microsoft is an outlier in the way tech companies have been behaving.”

The unionizing workers are based in Hunt Valley and Rockville, Maryland, as well as the Texas cities of Austin and Dallas.

Read More