On Monday June 13, Microsoft and Communication Workers of America (CWA) announced that they have entered into a labor neutrality agreement. Essentially, this means that Microsoft will recognize any union the employees of Activision Blizzard organize.
In broader terms, this means that Microsoft has agreed to remain neutral in the face of workplace organization. They will allow workers to freely discuss union membership, as well as help facilitate a simple, streamlined process for a union vote, and allow workers keep their union voting decisions private. If Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard is successful, the agreement will go into effect 60 days after the deal closes.
The announcement of Microsoft’s acquisition came after Activision Blizzard was accused of widespread harassment and workplace abuse by multiple current and former employees. Questions about what effect the acquisition would have on workplace organization efforts were immediately raised. This agreement with the CWA is legally binding, unlike previous verbal promises that Microsoft would recognize unions. Additionally, should there be any conflict between Microsoft and the CWA, the agreement outlines an arbitration process. In an interview with the Washington Post, Microsoft president Brad Smith stated that Activision Blizzard had not been consulted on the terms of the agreement.
While this is big news for the unionization effect within Activision Blizzard, it also has broader implications. In the aforementioned Washington Post report, CWA President Christopher Shelton said that this agreement could help facilitate unionization effects at Microsoft itself.
This is also the latest event in an industry wide unionization effort. Just within the past year, Vodeo Games recognized the first North American video game union, QA employees at Raven Software recently held a union vote, and workers at Keystone Studios founded the first Canadian video game union. Meanwhile, Nintendo, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and others have all been accused of various forms of workplace mismanagement.