A group of video game testers has formed Microsoft’s first labor union in the US, which is also the largest in the video game industry.
The Communications Workers of America said Tuesday that most of the 300 workers who ensure the quality of Microsoft Video game subsidiary ZeniMax Studios voted to join the union.
Microsoft has already told the CWA it will accept the union formation of 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 over ZeniMax’s famous 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 common to video game companies.
“Across the industry, quality assurance departments are poorly treated, underpaid, and treated as replaceable cogs,” said Dayberry, who worked for five years at ZeniMax’s Rockville, Maryland headquarters. in games like Fallout, Prey and The Evil Within .
“There’s not a lot of dignity involved in it,” he said. “That’s something we hope to show people in the industry who are in similar situations, that if we can do it, they can do it too.”
The unionization campaign is accelerating thanks to Microsoft’s ongoing bid to buy the California-based gaming giant Activision Blizzard. Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, made an agreement in June with the CWA union to remain neutral when Activision Blizzard workers sought to form a union.
Microsoft’s legal agreement specifically applies to Activision Blizzard employees after the merger closes. But it also reflects Microsoft’s broader principles of unionization management, which are unusual in the tech and gaming industries.
Dayberry said Microsoft’s promise of neutrality gives workers confidence that there won’t be any “retaliation or union busting, which has never happened.”
“They certainly stand by their word,” said CWA spokeswoman Beth Allen. “This is very momentous. Microsoft is an outlier in the way tech companies behave.
Unionized workers are based in Hunt Valley and Rockville, Maryland, as well as the Texas cities of Austin and Dallas.
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