QA workers at Bethesda Softworks parent company ZeniMax Media have launched a union, ZeniMax Workers United – CWA, becoming the first group of Microsoft employees to do so.
“Today we, a majority of QA workers at ZeniMax, are proud to announce the launch of our union with @CWAunion,” ZeniMax Workers United tweeted (opens in a new tab). “We are the first group of Microsoft employees to formally join the union. We are empowered to stand up for ourselves and build a future where we can thrive with the company.
“QA workers at ZeniMax are extremely passionate about our work and the games we make. Having a seat at the table will ensure we are fairly compensated for the work we do. A union at work will protect us and ensure our passion is not not taken for granted.”
The union said it hoped to secure four main points for its members:
- Fair treatment for all individuals and wages commensurate with the value they provide
- Opportunities for advancement in the company
- Accountability and transparency
- A voice in decision-making around planning, workload and more
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A New York Times (opens in a new tab) the report cites some employees who, unsurprisingly, cited crunch as a driving factor behind the move to unionize: An employee working on The Elder Scrolls Online said that ZeniMax recently made overtime hours voluntary, but that many employees still feel pressured to take them themselves. Pay rates lower than those offered by other software development sectors, such as financial or security software, were also noted as a problem.
As it did with Activision Blizzard, Microsoft pledged to remain “neutral” during the voting process, and has apparently stuck to its word: The report says ZeniMax employees have praised the company for not trying to convince employees to vote against unionization. It’s certainly up to Microsoft to do it: Unionization gains momentum – QA workers at Blizzard Albany (opens in a new tab) voted overwhelmingly to join the Game Workers Alliance union this past weekend – and to oppose it would be a bad look at best. That doesn’t usually stop big companies from anti-unionization, but labor peace will also almost certainly serve Microsoft well as it seeks FTC approval (opens in a new tab) for the difficult acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
The Communications Workers Alliance union, parent of the Game Workers Alliance (and, presumably, the ZWU), also credited Microsoft for not interfering with ZeniMax’s union efforts, and for opening the door to further game workers’ union efforts in the future.
“When workers have the opportunity to join a union without corporate interference, it gives them the opportunity to be heard in the workplace,” the CWA tweeted. “We are excited to support ZeniMax quality assurance workers as they join the growing video game labor movement in the United States.
“We applaud Microsoft for staying neutral through this process and letting workers decide for themselves whether they want to unionize. The company is fulfilling the commitments it made in its labor policies earlier this year, while also sending a resounding message to the video game industry: The right to free and fairly making a choice about union representation should be in the hands of workers, not management. Other video game and tech giants have made a choice to attack, undermine and demoralize their workers when they form a union. Microsoft has made another choice, as have others companies would do well to emulate for the good of their corporate culture, their workers and customers.”
We applaud @Microsoft for staying neutral through this process and letting workers decide for themselves whether they want a union.5 December 2022
Microsoft’s response to ZeniMax’s QA union stands in stark contrast to Activision Blizzard, which actively worked to undermine employees who sought to organize in ways ranging from anti-union talk (opens in a new tab) to withhold wage increases (opens in a new tab) from Raven QA workers due to their union-related activity. It even refused to negotiate with the Ravens’ QA union until mid-June; perhaps coincidentally, and perhaps not, the announcement that Activision Blizzard management would enter “good faith negotiations” came just days before Microsoft’s “labor neutrality agreement” (opens in a new tab)” with the CWA over union work at Activision Blizzard.
It’s a big step forward, but there’s still more to do before the ZeniMax QA union is a done deal: The union said the election process will continue “over the next four weeks.” I’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update if I hear back.