Microsoft makes “binding commitment” to Activision Blizzard union neutrality

The "ground-breaking" agreement will come into effect when Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard, which has been fraught with allegations of union-busting behaviour in recent months

Microsoft and the Communications Workers Of America (CWA) have announced that Microsoft has reached a “ground-breaking labour neutrality agreement”, meaning the company will not actively oppose unionisation discussion once it finishes acquiring Activision Blizzard.

Announced yesterday (June 13), the labour neutrality agreement has five basic provisions that Microsoft has agreed to follow. The first ensures that Microsoft will remain neutral when Activision Blizzard employees express interest in joining a union.

Other points include ensuring employees will be able to “easily exercise their right to communicate with other employees and union representatives about union membership in a way that encourages information sharing and avoids business disruption”.

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The commitment also means that employees will have “an innovative technology-supported and streamlined process for choosing whether to join a union,” and can opt to make that decision with complete privacy. The final provision also states that if a dispute arises between CWA and Microsoft regarding the agreement, the pair will use an expedited arbitration process if a solution cannot be found.

Discussing the agreement, CWA president Chris Shelton shares that it “provides a pathway for Activision Blizzard workers to exercise their democratic rights to organize and collectively bargain after the close of the Microsoft acquisition and establishes a high road framework for employers in the games industry.”

Activision Blizzard HQ
Credit: Activision Blizzard

“Microsoft’s binding commitments will give employees a seat at the table and ensure that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard benefits the company’s workers and the broader video game labour market. The agreement addresses CWA’s previous concerns regarding the acquisition, and, as a result, we support its approval and look forward to working collaboratively with Microsoft after this deal closes,” added Shelton.

Meanwhile, Microsoft president Brad Smith said that “earlier this month we announced a set of principles that will guide our approach to labour organizations, and the Activision Blizzard acquisition is our first opportunity to put these principles into practice.”

“We appreciate CWA’s collaboration in reaching this agreement, and we see today’s partnership as an avenue to innovate and grow together,” Smith shared.

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Bobby Kotick, President and CEO, Activision Blizzard in 2014 CREDIT: Javier Rojas
Bobby Kotick, President and CEO, Activision Blizzard in 2014 CREDIT: Javier Rojas

The agreement is a far cry from Activision Blizzard’s recent behaviour regarding unionisation. When the first allegations of sexual harassment emerged at the company, Activision Blizzard was quick to hire a law firm with a reputation for union-busting. Months later, when employees at Raven Software started the unionisation process, Activision chose not to recognise the union and internally shared a variety of anti-union messages with employees.

Last month (via Polygon), the United States’ National Labour Relations Board shared that there was “merit” to allegations that Activision Blizzard allegedly threatened employees for discussing topics related to unionisation.

In other news, an engineer at Google believes that an AI chatbot within the company has become sentient.

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