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Tech Is Notoriously Anti-union. Microsoft Is Taking A Different Approach — Neutrality

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By Author: Immersive Sound Gaming
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Microsoft enters ‘labor neutrality agreement’ with CWA union
The ever-growing technology industry has always been an anti-union sector as all the major giants have spent a lot of money to close down the labour unions. Not just because workers do not wish to be organized, but because all these big companies have always felt the need to shut down the unions. Earlier last year, a few workers from Google wanted to form a union. This raised a lot of confusion in the minds of the employees. A lot of people could not relate to the need to form a union when the employees were already getting high salaries and perks. But it was treated to be a battle for ethics, equality, and labour rights at these tech giants, where employees wanted to think beyond perks and wages.

Amazon, Apple, and Google have time and again been accused of busting these labour unions and have been spending a lot of money to let down these unions that help in organizing the workers. Unfortunately, the video gaming industry has also adopted this union-busting technique. Both Nintendo as well as Activision Blizzard, had charges filed by the National ...
... Labor Relations Board in this year. These companies were claimed to have been a part of the retaliation against these unions and were against organizing workers.

On the other hand, Microsoft has been taking a completely different approach and prefers neutrality. Microsoft has been waiting to seek the approval of the Federal Trade Commission for the purchase of Activision Blizzard. Recently Communication Workers of America and Microsoft together announced that they had signed a labour neutrality agreement. Let us understand what it actually means.

The parties have basically entered into a contract where Microsoft has agreed that it will not discourage the efforts of any unions. It has agreed in writing not to put off the union efforts. The agreement shall be executed within 60 days of the Activision Blizzard deal as and when the acquisition closes. Microsoft has promised to not intervene in the efforts of the new union formed by Raven Software employees.

The main pointers of the deal are that firstly Microsoft will adopt neutrality over the interest of the employees to join a union. The point has also been covered in the said agreement. Secondly, it has been mentioned in the agreement that the employees covered in the said deal will easily have the right to communicate their thoughts to the union representatives and other employees. They can express what they feel about the union membership, encourage the flow of information, and reduce any business disruption.

Thirdly, every employee will have complete freedom to decide on whether they wish to join a union. A streamlined and innovative process supported by technology will assist them in choosing whether they wish to join a union or not. Fourthly, complete privacy and confidentiality will be maintained regarding the choice of the employees. Fifthly, any disagreement between Microsoft and Communication Workers of America will be jointly managed by the organizations, and they will work together to reach a conclusion. In case the argument cannot be solved mutually, then a quick arbitration process will be needed.

Raven Software has always supported the Activision Blizzard workers, and they have been part of the unions since 2021. However, the unions took a more organized turn when a few instances of sexism and gender discrimination got publicized. As a result, Raven Software quality assurance workers went on a strike when the company dismissed the idea of getting into new contracts for the members of the QA team. In the months after December, Activision Blizzard was said to have fought the union at every step, leading to a union vote in May 2022. Here the quality assurance workers working on the game Call of Duty: Warzone won the battle to form a union with a huge margin of nineteen votes to just three against them.

Microsoft and CWA Make BIG Activision Union Deal-Activision Blizzard

Following this vote at the Raven Software team, Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, promised to support the union as it was something that was legally binding for the company to do as per federal law. Microsoft has now promised in writing that it would effectively neutralize the hostility of Activision Blizzard. Brad Smith, the Microsoft president, spoke to The Washington Post that neither Kotick nor Activision Blizzard was part of the agreement. Though, it will not even matter once the neutrality agreement goes into force after the merger is complete.

As per CWA president Chris Shelton, the agreement will provide a clear way for Activision Blizzard workers to speak up for their democratic rights and collectively bargain once the Microsoft acquisition is over. In addition, it will certainly establish a framework for the gaming industry. He added that Microsoft’s commitments would assure the employees that the acquisitions would benefit the company’s workers and the entire labour market of the video game sector.

Not questioning the intention of Microsoft but opting for neutrality over hostility gives out a great sign to the video game as well as the technology industries. The move will at least make the roadmap to joining the union easier for Activision Blizzard workers. It will also help the Microsoft workers to reach their goals.

Microsoft PC games

Conclusion:
The sentiments attached to the Union are seeing a major change in North American workforces. The employees wish to have a say in their compensation and want to be treated at par at their jobs. The last few years have built up to this moment. It was the year 2021 that saw the rise of unions in the video game development sector of North America. These have grown to become three unions at present. There is still a lot that can be done in the sector of the video game industry and for the workers who are at the lowest wage scale. Unions are helping to organize this segment as it leads to small moral victories for the workers.

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