- A group of some 300 Texas- and Maryland-based quality assurance workers for video game developer ZeniMax Studios, a subsidiary of Microsoft, voted Dec. 5 to form the technology giant’s first-ever U.S. union, according to an email to HR Dive from the Communications Workers of America.
- A Twitter account for the group, ZeniMax Workers United, confirmed the election results in a series of tweets Dec. 5. The union said it hoped to secure a set of conditions including fair treatment and wages; opportunities for advancement; accountability and transparency; and a voice in scheduling and workload decisions.
- In June, Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith announced that the company would take an “open and constructive approach” toward labor organizations. In the union’s email, CWA President Christopher Shelton said he applauded Microsoft “for remaining neutral through this process and letting workers decide for themselves whether they want a union.”
Microsoft’s labor approach may be atypical in an industry that has historically had little union presence; a January U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report found that computer and mathematical occupations had a unionization rate of just 3.7%. Yet news of the company’s first U.S. union also reflects a growing wave of nationwide interest in labor organizing across many economic sectors.
That wave has already affected Microsoft in some respects. The company is seeking to complete its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, another large player in the gaming industry. Activision continues to deal with the fallout of a 2021 lawsuit filed by California regulators alleging incidents of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and gender-based pay discrimination that also spurred inquiries from federal regulators. In May, QA workers at Activision subsidiary Raven Software approved union representation through CWA.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision still must receive regulatory approval in the coming months, though the company’s approach to unions may have helped secure support from worker advocates on the issue. In an op-ed published by The Hill on Monday, Shelton wrote that the Federal Trade Commission should approve the acquisition, noting that organizers were able to sign a neutrality agreement with Microsoft guaranteeing that the company would allow Activision employees to “freely and fairly” decide whether to form a union, should the deal succeed.
“Approving this merger with the labor agreement that we fashioned with Microsoft to protect collective bargaining rights would send a game-changing message to corporate America that workers do indeed have a seat at the table and their concerns matter and must be addressed,” Shelton wrote.
The company’s approach differs from other tech sector employers — perhaps most notably at Google and Amazon, where unionization efforts have faced antagonism from management at times.
“The recent organizing efforts of ZeniMax employees, and Microsoft and ZeniMax's neutrality toward this, are an example of our labor principles in action,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email to HR Dive. “We remain committed to providing employees with an opportunity to freely and fairly make choices about their workplace representation.”