Microsoft and Communication Workers of America (CWA) have reached a neutral agreement that promises to pave the way for unionization for Activision Blizzard workers, with Game Studio Microsoft planning to acquire for 68.7 billion.
Activist Blizzard’s subsidiary Raven Software’s quality assurance workers voted last month to form a union, ending several months of work – including a five-week strike in January against the decision to lay off Activation’s 12 QA examiners – which led to the release of the first union video in the United States. Despite initially refusing to voluntarily recognize the CWA-backed union, Activism Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotik reportedly changed tactics in an email to workers last week.
Microsoft announced in January its intention to buy Activision Blizzard, which is responsible for games such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, which raises the possibility of a formal employee union within Microsoft.
Although Microsoft has previously indicated that it will not stand in the way of a workers’ union at Activision Blizzard, the five-point agreement announced by the CWA and Microsoft on Monday formalized its position.
The agreement promises a “neutral approach” to employee unionization without interference from Microsoft and an assurance that employees can communicate freely with colleagues and labor organizers about unionization. The agreement will take effect 60 days after the planned acquisition closes, CWA said.
The Neutrality Agreement will give activism workers the opportunity to “organize and collectively bargain for their democratic rights,” CWA President Chris Shelton said in a statement. “Microsoft’s mandatory commitment will give employees a seat at the table and ensure that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard will benefit the company’s employees and the larger video game labor market,” he said.
Microsoft President and Vice Chair Brad Smith welcomed the agreement with CWA in a statement, saying “we see today’s partnership as a way to innovate and grow together.”
In a Microsoft blog post last week, Smith pledged to honor the consolidation effort within the company, a move described by an educator as a “bold and welcome commitment” to the labor organization’s historically resistant technology industry. Microsoft’s approach differs from other major technology companies in that it has taken a more aggressive stance towards unification efforts in its workforce, particularly between Apple and Amazon.
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