Microsoft and the Communications Workers of America, a media union, announced a labor neutrality agreement on Monday. The decision would specifically affect Activision Blizzard employees, who have been consulting with the CWA about organizing a union after Microsoft completes its acquisition of the video game company.
The agreement, which is unusual in the tech industry, has the potential to make it easier for Activision Blizzard (ATVI) employees to unionize once Microsoft (MSFT) completes its blockbuster $68.7 billion acquisition of the video game company. The transaction is expected to be completed by next year.
Microsoft has stated that it will assist employees who wish to unionize.
According to a joint press release with CWA, Microsoft will "take a neutral approach" to employees who express interest in joining a union and will allow employees to communicate openly about unionizing.
The agreement formalizes Microsoft's support for potential unions within its workforce, which was first expressed by the company's president, Brad Smith, in a blog post earlier this month. It also distinguishes the company from many of its peers in the tech industry, with recent unionization efforts at Amazon, Apple, and Activision Blizzard becoming contentious.
The technology industry has historically been anti-union, not because workers don't want to organize, but because major businesses have always wanted to spend money to break up unions.
Within the last year, Amazon, Google, and Apple have all been accused of union-busting, purportedly spending large sums of money to discourage workers from forming. The video game business is not immune to this hatred. In 2022, the National Labor Relations Board filed complaints against both Activision Blizzard and Nintendo, alleging that both businesses engaged in retaliation against organizing workers, among other things.
In the past, the video game behemoth was chastised for preventing employees from unionizing. The National Labor Relations Board ruled in May that Activision Blizzard violated the National Labor Relations Act by interfering with employee unionization efforts after the company allegedly threatened employees and implemented a social media policy that hampered their collective action rights.
CWA President Christopher Shelton told the Post that negotiations began when Microsoft announced in January that it would buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion.
A group of quality assurance employees at Raven Software, an Activision Blizzard-owned gaming studio that works on the company's popular "Call of Duty" game series, voted last month to form a union. The vote to unionize came after months of tensions between Raven and Activision Blizzard over recent layoffs, and it was the latest effort by workers to advocate for better working conditions at the troubled video game company.