Microsoft agrees to remain neutral in Activision Blizzard union efforts

Contractors at Activision Blizzard's Raven Software studio voted in favor of forming a union in May

Microsoft has agreed to remain neutral when Activision Blizzard employees express interest in joining a union, according to a new labor agreement with the Communications Workers of America.

The CWA notes that covered employees will be able to exercise their rights to organize in a way that "encourages information sharing and avoids business disruptions" through a technology-supported and streamlined process. Employees who choose to join a union will be able to do so privately and confidentially if they wish. If a disagreement arises, the CWA and Microsoft will work together to reach an agreement and turn to an expedited arbitration process if they cannot. 

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The agreement will take effect 60 days after the closing of Microsoft's $68.7 billion acquisition of the video game publishing giant, which is expected to take place in fiscal year 2023. The CWA and Microsoft added that they are committed to exploring new efforts to collaborate, including new technology and skill-building programs to enhance the United States' competitiveness. 


The deal comes after video game testers at Activision Blizzard's Raven Software studio voted 19-3 in favor of forming the company's first-ever union, the Game Workers Alliance, in May.

The Game Workers Alliance was established in January in response to Activision's decision to lay off 12 of Raven Software's QA contractors. Prior to the group's formation, 60 Raven Software workers walked out to protest the layoffs on Dec. 6 and went on strike for five weeks. The Raven QA team predominantly works on the studio’s popular Call of Duty series.

"This is huge! Our hard work is paying off," the union tweeted Monday. "Thanks to Microsoft for committing to neutrality!"

In a statement on Friday, Activision said it would begin good faith negotiations to enter a collective bargaining agreement with the Communication Workers of America. 

"While first labor contracts can take some time to complete, we will meet CWA leaders at the bargaining table and work toward an agreement that supports the success of all our employees, that further strengthens our commitment to create the industry’s best, most welcoming and inclusive workplace, and enhances our ability to deliver world class games for our player," Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said. 

Activision has also committed to convert over 1,100 temporary and contingent QA workers in the United States to full-time status and increase their minimum hourly pay rate to $20 per hour. The QA employees are eligible to participate in the company's bonus plan and have access to full company benefits.


While Activision has previously told FOX Business it respects and believes in employees' right to organize, it declined to voluntarily recognize the Game Workers Alliance prior to its union election and urged workers to "consider the consequences" of signing union authorization cards

"We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees," the company said at the time. 

Moments before the vote, the National Labor Relations Board said its Los Angeles region office found merit to allegations that the company violated the National Labor Relations Act by threatening employees who were attempting to unionize through enforcement of its social media policy.

"These allegations are false," Activision told FOX Business. "Employees may and do talk freely about these workplace issues without retaliation, and our social media policy expressly incorporates employees’ NLRA rights."