At a time when many major tech companies are actively trying to stamp out unionization movements, Microsoft has just taken a proactive step toward recognizing unions that don’t even exist yet, via a partnership with the Communication Workers of America (CWA).
The two groups announced that they have entered into a labor neutrality agreement, which will take effect 60 days after Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard officially closes, which is planned prior to June 30, 2023.
The agreement states that Microsoft will take a “neutral approach” when employees express interest in unionizing, and will permit them to communicate with their colleagues and union representatives about unionization “in a way that encourages information sharing and avoids business disruptions.” The language seems to imply that Microsoft will not try to hinder employees from discussing unions, and in return employees will avoid action that might slow down work, such as strikes.
Furthermore, the agreement allows employees access to “an innovative technology-supported and streamlined process for choosing whether to join a union” that includes individual employee privacy. And finally, the agreement lays the groundwork for CWA and Microsoft to work together to resolve any issues that occur while under this agreement, including an expedited arbitration process if a consensus cannot be found.
“This agreement provides a pathway for Activision Blizzard workers to exercise their democratic rights to organize and collectively bargain after the close of the Microsoft acquisition and establishes a high road framework for employers in the games industry,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “…The agreement addresses CWA’s previous concerns regarding the acquisition, and, as a result, we support its approval and look forward to working collaboratively with Microsoft after this deal closes.”
CWA and Microsoft have stated that they are also exploring further collaboration in the future on initiatives related to new technology and skill building programs.
Microsoft, and Xbox specifically, have already been more welcoming toward unions than most in recent months, with Phil Spencer explicitly stating he would voluntarily recognize the Raven Software union within Activision prior to its formation late last month. Activision Blizzard was, in the lead-up to the vote, actively hostile toward Raven’s union. We’ve since also seen a group of QA workers at BioWare working on Dragon Age successfully unionize, and last year Vodeo because the first official North American games union.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.
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Author: Rebekah Valentine