Microsoft indicators ‘labor neutrality settlement’ with union representing Activision Blizzard staff

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The Communications Workers of America announced Monday that it entered into a labor neutrality agreement with Microsoft that will apply at Activision Blizzard two months after Microsoft’s planned acquisition of the gaming giant.

Under terms of the agreement, Microsoft takes an official policy of neutrality toward any interest in or exploration of unionization by employees that are represented by the CWA. This broadly includes anyone who works in telecommunications or information technology, which likely encompasses most of the roles in a video game development studio.

The agreement follows up on several moves Microsoft has been making over the last two weeks, including a pledge to take an “open and constructive approach” toward labor unions in tech.

“Earlier this month we announced a set of principles that will guide our approach to labor organizations, and the Activision Blizzard acquisition is our first opportunity to put these principles into practice,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement.

Due to significant workplace issues within the larger video game industry, such as poor scheduling and hire-and-fire cycles, unionization efforts have been growing on a grassroots level for at least the last four years. The CWA agreement with Microsoft marks one of the most significant steps forward for the overall movement, and while Microsoft’s responsibilities all amount to simply staying out of the way, it remains one of the most pro-union moves by a major industry player to date.

CWA said the agreement addresses its “previous concerns regarding the acquisition” and it now supports the $68.7 billion deal announced in January.

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CWA President Chris Shelton said the agreement “establishes a high road framework for employers in the games industry.”

“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 labor market,” Shelton said.

The agreement would make it significantly easier for studios within Activision to unionize, a process which the company has done its best to impede. Despite that, the quality assurance team at Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software successfully voted to unionize late last month.

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