Microsoft and the Communications Workers of America formed a labor neutral agreement on Monday that will allow workers to explore their right to unionize without fear of being retaliated against. 60 days later, the agreement kicks in.
The game industry has always been hostile to worker collectives. There is no better example of this than at the company, where workers have been fighting for months to unionize. The first union to be formed under the company's umbrella are workers from Call of Duty developer Raven Software.
Employees will be able to talk with their co-workers about union membership and confidentiality will be maintained on those topics. If a disagreement arises between the CWA and Microsoft under the agreement, the two organizations will work together quickly to reach an agreement.
Chris Shelton, president of the CWA, said in a statement that the agreement provides a pathway for workers at the company to organize. Employees now have a seat at the table.
The wariness of the CWA over the merger has been going on for a long time. In March, it urged the FTC, along with 14 other organizations, to scrutinize the deal before it closes. Those concerns are alleviated by the agreement. Microsoft president Brad Smith said in a statement that the impending acquisition is the company's first chance to enforce its guidelines for labor organizations.
Employees at Microsoft can unionize. Phil Spencer told staff that the company would recognize the union once the merger was completed. The National Labor Relations Board found merit in the allegations that the company threatened employees who talked about work conditions. Workers were forced to win their rights by way of election after the company refused to recognize the union.
A group of quality assurance developers formed the firstAAA union at one of the biggest game companies on the planet after winning that vote. "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," said a spokesman for the company.
The fight can no longer be continued by the company. Bobby Kotick, the company's CEO, told employees in an email on June 10 that the company would negotiate with the Communications Workers of America and 27 other employees.
Microsoft's willingness to work with the CWA boded well for future efforts to organize at the company, but the road to better working conditions is still long. Agreeing on a contract takes a long time and requires compromise on both sides. The company has a legal obligation to come to the table at this point in time. No one has a choice.
The secretary-treasurer of the CWA said that Kotick's promise is a positive step toward high road labor relations. She hopes that the announcement of a strong union contract will help shape the future of the company.