White House Roundtable Highlights Microsoft’s Constructive Approach to Union Organizing and Collective Bargaining
Communications Workers of America member Autumn Mitchell, a Quality Assurance tester from Microsoft’s Zenimax studio, participated in a White House roundtable today hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
The roundtable highlighted forward-looking companies that are respecting their workers’ right to form unions. Union members and executives from each company briefed Harris and Walsh on their experiences. Also participating were the United Auto Workers with Ford, the Baltimore Building and Construction Trades Council with Orsted, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers with Siemens.
“It was an honor to be invited to the White House to share our experience forming a union at Zenimax with Vice President Harris and Secretary Walsh,” said Mitchell. “When Quality Assurance workers at Activision announced they were joining CWA, they were threatened, intimidated, and illegally denied raises. Nothing like that happened when we decided to organize at Zenimax. I have a lot of respect for Microsoft’s leadership for taking a different approach and continuously working with us in good faith. I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure on them to act just like all of the other tech and video game companies. But they made a commitment to trust us to make the decision that was best for us and they stood by that commitment.”
While tech and video game companies like Amazon, Apple, and Activision have launched aggressive and often illegal anti-union campaigns to attack their employees who want to join unions, Microsoft has taken a different approach.
Last year, the company established its Principles on Employee Organizing and Engagement with Labor Organizations, outlining an “open and constructive approach” to promoting “dialogue, collaboration, and trust between business and labor.” This was followed by the announcement of a ground-breaking, legally-binding labor neutrality agreement between CWA and Microsoft. The agreement, which would apply to the Activision Blizzard workforce once Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of the company is approved, committed Microsoft to a neutral approach when employees express interest in joining a union.
In December, workers at Microsoft’s ZeniMax studio announced that they were organizing with CWA. Microsoft agreed to a process that would enable the workers to freely and fairly decide if they wanted to form a union, in accordance with the company’s stated principles. Managers were trained to remain neutral and refer any questions about the union to the organizing committee. Employees indicated their preference for the union either by signing a representation card or voting via a secure, online portal. In early February, a neutral arbitrator reviewed the results and certified that the ZeniMax workers had voted to be represented by CWA.
“Today’s White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment roundtable showed Vice President Harris and the Biden Administration’s continued commitment to encouraging union organizing and collective bargaining,” said CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens. “Microsoft’s approach to worker organizing – letting the workers decide for themselves whether or not to join a union – is a model that other companies should emulate. By following the European Commission's approach on approval of the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard with consumer protection conditions, the Federal Trade Commission could bring this constructive approach to almost 10,000 video game industry workers in an industry that perpetuates some of the most toxic working conditions.”
About CWA: The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, manufacturing, tech, and other fields.