Microsoft reaches ‘groundbreaking agreement’ with union representing gaming workers

Communications Workers of America, the parent organization of the Game Workers Alliance union, has entered a “labor neutrality agreement (opens in new tab)” with Microsoft on unionizing Activision Blizzard workers. The “groundbreaking agreement,” which will take effect 60 days after Microsoft completes its acquisition of the studio, “reflects a fundamental belief by both organizations that it allows workers to choice about union representation will benefit Microsoft and its employees.”

The agreement between Microsoft and the CWA is built around five “basic provisions”:

  • Microsoft will take a neutral approach to Activision Blizzard employees who express an interest in joining a union.
  • Employees covered by the agreement will be able to talk to each other and to union representatives without hassle or headache.
  • Employees will have access to a streamlined process for deciding whether or not to join a union.
  • Employees can choose to keep their decision on whether or not to join a union confidential.
  • If there is a disagreement between the CWA and Microsoft, they will negotiate “promptly” to resolve it and move to “accelerated arbitration” if they cannot.

“This agreement provides a pathway for Activision Blizzard workers to exercise their democratic rights to organize and collectively bargain after the closing of the Microsoft acquisition and establishes a high-profile framework for employers in the gaming industry,” said CWA President, Chris Shelton.

“Microsoft’s binding commitments will give employees a seat at the table and ensure that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard benefits the company’s workers and the broader video game job market. The agreement addresses the 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 agreement is closed.”

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The deal carries no official weight until the deal is closed, but it does explain Activision Blizzard’s announcement last week that, after months of resistance, it will acknowledge and enter into “good faith negotiations (opens in new tab)” with Raven’s newly created quality control workers union. Shortly after workers voted to unionize, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said Microsoft will not oppose unionization efforts (opens in new tab) if and when the Activision Blizzard acquisition is completed; it now appears that Microsoft was actively negotiating the situation with the CWA, and while the terms of the deal haven’t been official for some time, the mere fact that it exists effectively locks Activision Blizzard’s current lead on it.

“Earlier this month, we announced a set of principles (opens in new tab) that will guide our approach to labor organizations, and the acquisition of Activision Blizzard is our first opportunity to put these principles into practice,” said Microsoft President and Vice President Brad Smith as a path to innovate and grow together.”

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Activision Blizzard Shareholders Recently approved Microsoft’s proposed purchase (opens in new tab)but still needs to be approved by the US Federal Trade Commission, which is not necessarily a right thing (opens in new tab).

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