A group of video game testers has formed Microsoft’s first labor union in the US, which would also be the largest in the video game industry.
The Communications Workers of America said Tuesday that a majority of the nearly 300 quality-assurance employees at Microsoft video game subsidiary ZeniMax Studios have voted to join the union.
Microsoft had already told the CWA that it would accept union formation at its Maryland-based video game subsidiary, fulfilling a promise it had made to try to build public support for it. Another big game company, Activision Blizzard’s $68.7 billion acquisition,
Microsoft will buy ZeniMax for $7.5 billion in 2021, giving the Xbox-maker control of ZeniMax’s famed game publishing division Bethesda Softworks and popular game franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Doom and Fallout.
Senior game tester Wayne DeBerry said in an interview with The Associated Press that the unionization campaign began before Microsoft’s acquisition and reflected workplace concerns at video game companies.
“Throughout the industry, quality assurance departments are treated poorly, paid very little, and treated as replaceable cogs,” said DeBerry, who has worked on games such as Fallout, Prey and The Evil Within. Worked at ZeniMax’s Rockville, Maryland headquarters for five years. ,
“There’s not a lot of dignity involved,” he said. “It’s something we’re hoping to show people in the industry who are in similar situations that if we can do it, they can do it too.”
The unionization campaign gained momentum because of Microsoft’s ongoing bid to buy California-based game giant Activision Blizzard. Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, entered into a June agreement with the CWA union to remain neutral if Activision Blizzard workers sought to unionize.
The worker-friendly pledge sought to appeal to US regulatory concerns under President Joe Biden about the labor implications of the massive business merger, although it sued the Federal Trade Commission last month to block Microsoft’s planned Activision Blizzard acquisition. did not stop him from doing The first hearing of the antitrust case took place on Tuesday and could drag on for months.
Two small units of Activision Blizzard workers were the first Certify Unions Last Year in Middleton, Wisconsin and Albany, New York. A third, Boston-based Activision Blizzard subsidiary Proletar, filed a petition on December 27 with the National Labor Relations Board to organize its 57 workers.
Microsoft’s legally binding neutrality agreement applies exclusively to Activision Blizzard workers following the closing of the merger. But it also reflects Microsoft’s broader principles on dealing with unionization, which is still unusual in the tech and gaming industries.
DeBerry said Microsoft’s promise of neutrality gave workers confidence that there would be no “retaliation or union-busting, which has not happened so far.”
Microsoft’s green light allowed ZeniMax union certification to go through a third-party intermediary instead of the lengthy process typically overseen by the NLRB. The week-long election period ended on December 31 and was formally certified on Tuesday. Microsoft said in a statement that it recognizes the union.
“They’ve certainly always held their word,” said CWA spokeswoman Beth Allen. “It’s very important. Microsoft is an outlier in the way tech companies are behaving.
Union workers are located in Hunt Valley and Rockville, Maryland, as well as the Texas cities of Austin and Dallas.
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