AP

Video game workers form Microsoft’s first US labor union

Jan 4, 2023, 10:26 AM

layoffs...

(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

A group of video game testers has formed Microsoft’s first labor union in the U.S., which will also be the largest in the video game industry.

The Communications Workers of America said Tuesday that a majority of about 300 quality-assurance workers at Microsoft video game subsidiary ZeniMax Studios has voted to join the union.

Microsoft already told the CWA it would accept the formation of the union at its Maryland-based video game subsidiary, fulfilling a promise it made to try to build public support for its $68.7 billion acquisition of another big game company, Activision Blizzard.

Microsoft bought ZeniMax for $7.5 billion in 2021, giving the Xbox-maker control of ZeniMax’s well-known game publishing division Bethesda Softworks and popular game franchises such as The Elder Scrolls, Doom and Fallout.

Senior game tester Wayne Dayberry said in an interview with The Associated Press that the unionization campaign began before Microsoft took over and reflected workplace concerns that are common at video game companies.

“Throughout the industry, the quality assurance departments are treated poorly, paid very little, and treated as replaceable cogs,” said Dayberry, who has worked for five years at ZeniMax’s Rockville, Maryland headquarters on games such as Fallout, Prey and The Evil Within.

“There’s not a lot of dignity involved in it,” he said. “That’s something we’re hoping to show people in the industry who are in like situations, that if we can do it, they can do it as well.”

The unionization campaign accelerated thanks to Microsoft’s ongoing bid to buy California-based game giant Activision Blizzard. Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, made a June pact with the CWA union to stay neutral if Activision Blizzard workers sought to form a union.

The worker-friendly pledge sought to appeal to U.S. regulator concerns under President Joe Biden about the labor implications of massive business mergers, though it didn’t stop the Federal Trade Commission from suing last month to block Microsoft’s planned Activision Blizzard acquisition. The antitrust case had its first hearing Tuesday and could drag on for months.

Two small units of Activision Blizzard workers were the first to certify unions last year in Middleton, Wisconsin and Albany, New York. A third, Boston-based Activision Blizzard subsidiary Proletariat, filed a Dec. 27 petition with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize its 57 workers.

Microsoft’s legally binding neutrality agreement specifically applied to Activision Blizzard workers after the closing of the merger. But it also reflects Microsoft’s broader principles on handling unionization, which is still uncommon in the tech and gaming industries.

Dayberry said Microsoft’s neutrality promise gave workers confidence that there wouldn’t be any “retaliation or union-busting, which there has been none of.”

Microsoft’s green light allowed the ZeniMax union certification to go through a third-party arbitrator rather than the lengthier process typically overseen by the NLRB. A weekslong election period ended on Dec. 31 and was formally certified Tuesday. Microsoft said in a statement that it recognizes the union.

“They have definitely stood by their word all along,” said CWA spokesperson Beth Allen. “It’s pretty momentous. Microsoft is an outlier in the way tech companies have been behaving.”

The unionizing workers are based in Hunt Valley and Rockville, Maryland, as well as the Texas cities of Austin and Dallas.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

4 days ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

5 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

7 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

7 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

8 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

8 days ago

Video game workers form Microsoft’s first US labor union