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About 600 workers unionize at Activision, owned by Microsoft| GuyWhoKnowsThings

About 600 workers at Activision Publishing, the Microsoft-owned video game maker, are unionizing, forming the largest video game workers union in the United States, the Communications Workers of America said Friday. Microsoft recognized the union after the vote count was completed.

Employees work in quality assurance, testing Activision games for bugs, glitches and other defects, and 390 of them voted in favor of forming a union, while eight opposed the effort, the union said. About 200 workers did not vote.

Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard, the maker of Call of Duty and other blockbusters, for $69 billion in October. As part of its long effort to convince regulators to approve the deal, Microsoft signed a pact, the first of its kind in the industry, to remain neutral if workers wanted to unionize with the CWA

Managers were trained not to express an opinion about whether unionization was good or bad, and the CWA said Activision management upheld the pact and did not interfere with workers' organizing efforts.

“That has been, organizationally, a huge blessing,” said Kara Fannon, a union organizing committee member who works for Activision near Minneapolis. “It's helped a lot of people who were worried about union busting or possible retaliation.”

The new union is the first at Activision since the pact went into effect.

“Microsoft's selection will strengthen its corporate culture and its ability to serve its customers and should serve as a model for the industry,” CWA President Claude Cummings Jr. said in a statement.

The largest group of employees is in Minnesota, although the union also includes offices in Texas and California. The union's hopes include negotiating higher salaries, improving job security and providing more advancement opportunities for QA testers, who do some of the lowest-paying jobs in game development.

The pact also meant that workers were able to bypass the long and often contentious process of petitioning the National Labor Relations Board for elections. Instead, they used an expedited process, where workers indicated their support or opposition to the union by signing a union authorization card or voting confidentially online in a portal that opened on February 22 and closed on Thursday afternoon. An outside referee, Fred Horowitz, verified the results.

After the vote count, Amy Pannoni, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, said in a statement that the company looked forward to “continuing our positive relationship between labor management” and that it recognized CWA “as the bargaining representative for the central quality system.” from Activision Publishing. assurance employees.”

Workers had been organizing at Activision since at least 2021, when employees across the company organized a strike after a California civil rights agency sued the company for sexual misconduct in the workplace. (The company established the case on narrower grounds last year). Over time, worker organizing focused on unionization, with the support of the CWA.

Workers also saw last year's successful effort to unionize at ZeniMax Media, a video game company also owned by Microsoft, which had expanded its neutrality pact to cover any of the other video game studios it owns. In January 2023, about 300 workers at ZeniMax, whose Bethesda Game Studios produces hits like The Elder Scrolls, voted to unionize through the new accelerated process.

Following Friday's results, the CWA now represents more than 1,000 video game workers at Microsoft.

The video game industry has been hit by a series of layoffs and other cost-cutting measures for more than a year. Fannon said getting better layoff protections, such as better severance pay, has been a common concern among workers even before Microsoft cut 1,900 jobs in its video game division in January, including many layoffs at Activision.

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