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ZeniMax Workers Reach Agreement with Microsoft on Contractors and AI

Over the past week, members of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA have reached an agreement with Microsoft to incorporate a group of contract workers into their union as well as a tentative agreement on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace. The ZeniMax workers are in the midst of bargaining their first contract.

The use of contractors is common in the video game industry, and they often earn lower wages, have fewer benefits, and face less job stability than the direct employees they work alongside. As a result of their organizing campaign, temporary contract workers at ZeniMax Media, a video game studio owned by Microsoft, were able to establish greater job security and pay increases. Twenty-three of the 77 workers will be hired into full-time permanent jobs and the remaining 54 workers will be hired as temporary employees once negotiations conclude and the collective bargaining agreement is ratified. Other improvements for the workers include paid holidays and paid sick leave, which had previously only been available for workers in locations which mandate paid time off for illness.

“We hope to set a new precedent for workers across Microsoft and the entire video game industry so that all workers, regardless of their employment status, are able to improve their working conditions through collective bargaining,” said Chris Lusco, a member of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA.

The historic tentative agreement on AI commits ZeniMax to uses of AI that augment human ingenuity and capacities, to ensure that these tools enhance worker productivity, growth, and satisfaction without causing workers harm. ZeniMax has agreed to provide notice to the union in cases where AI implementation may impact the work of union members and to bargain those impacts upon request.

“Coming to this agreement was a high priority for us. It’s hard to say how developments with AI may impact our work, but now we can be more confident that the agreement will help to protect us as we navigate the potential adoption of AI into our workflow. It is crucial that all workers have a voice in what role AI plays in their work and can hold their employers accountable for the impacts of its use. This agreement empowers us to shape the ways we may choose to use AI in our work and also gives us the means to address those impacts before their potential implementation,” said ZeniMax Workers United-CWA member Dylan Burton, Senior QA Tester.

On Monday, members of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA joined CWA President Claude Cummings Jr. at an event hosted by the AFL-CIO and Microsoft to announce the formation of a new partnership to create an open dialogue to discuss how AI must anticipate the needs of workers and include their voices in its development and implementation. The partnership also includes a neutrality framework for worker organizing at Microsoft.

“The neutrality framework announced by the AFL-CIO today builds on our landmark labor neutrality agreement with Microsoft, providing a roadmap for additional workgroups not already covered by our neutrality agreement,” said President Cummings. “With the recent agreement on the use of AI at ZeniMax, we will have a legally binding collective bargaining agreement at Microsoft that incorporates exactly the principles we have been talking about here today.”

“Our efforts are helping pave the way for a relationship between Microsoft and the labor movement that won’t just benefit workers at Microsoft or just video game and tech workers, but all workers who will be impacted by emerging technology like AI,” said ZeniMax Workers United-CWA member Wayne Dayberry at the event.

Claude with ZeniMax Workers at AFL-CIO
ZeniMax Workers United-CWA Members joined CWA President Claude Cummings Jr. at the AFL-CIO’s announcement of a new partnership with Microsoft.