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A majority of quality assurance (QA) professionals at the developer opted to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union in a card count whose results were tabulated on Tuesday, the CWA announced. Microsoft subsequently voluntarily recognized the union, adhering to a set of labor principles that vice chair and president Brad Smith published in June, which stated the company did not believe it was beneficial to resist organizing drives.
In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson said, “In light of the results of the recent unionization vote, we recognize the Communications Workers of America (CWA) as the bargaining representative for the Quality Assurance employees at ZeniMax. We look forward to engaging in good faith negotiations as we work towards a collective bargaining agreement.”
Skylar Hinnant, a senior QA tester II at ZeniMax Studios based in Rockville, Maryland, said in a statement, “We’re thrilled to kick off 2023 in a workplace that’s stronger and more equitable than it was last year. This is an empowering victory that allows us to protect ourselves and each other in a way we never could without a union. Our hope and belief is that this is the year in which game workers across the country exercise their power and reshape the industry as a whole.”
A group of 300 QA workers will join the bargaining unit at Microsoft, representing “the largest group of union-represented Quality Assurance testers at any U.S. game studio,” according to CWA. CWA, which launched a concerted effort to organize the video game industry in 2020, has made its greatest strides with workers in QA roles: Last year, the union gained bargaining units of QA workers at Activision Blizzard-owned Raven Software and Blizzard Albany. At the end of last year, the union launched a “wall-to-wall” organizing drive, encompassing all non-management roles, at the Activision Blizzard-owned Proletariat studio.
Workers based in Rockville and Hunt Valley, Maryland as well as Austin and Dallas, Texas voted on whether to join CWA between Dec. 2 and Dec. 31. According to senior QA tester Victoria Banos, who is based in Hunt Valley, workers are seeking to put an end to “sudden periods of crunch, unfair pay, and lack of growth opportunities” with the union. Banos added, “Our union will push for truly competitive pay, better communication between management and workers, a clear path for those that want to progress their career, and more.”
In a statement, CWA president Chris Shelton said that Microsoft had “lived up” to its labor principles in its approach to the ZeniMax organizing drive. “Other video game and tech giants have made a conscious choice to attack, undermine, and demoralize their own employees when they join together to form a union. Microsoft is charting a different course which will strengthen its corporate culture and ability to serve its customers and should serve as a model for the industry and as a blueprint for regulators,” Shelton added.
The CWA has publicly sparred with Activision Blizzard in its recent organizing efforts at the company, filing multiple unfair labor practices claims at the National Labor Relations Board. Microsoft is in the process of attempting to acquire the video game holding company, but the $68.7 billion megadeal has since been challenged by the FTC. The CWA came out in support of the deal after the union and Microsoft penned a labor neutrality agreement covering Activision Blizzard, which would take effect if the deal closed.
Jan. 3, 11:38 a.m. Updated with Microsoft statement.
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