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Update: CWA says Microsoft layoffs didn't impact the developers it represents

"As we said in our original statement, CWA-represented members at Microsoft were not included in the announced layoffs."

Chris Kerr, News Editor

January 26, 2024

3 Min Read
Line art depicting the raises fists of union members
Image via the CWA

Update (01/26/24): A former Blizzard Entertainment VFX artist indicated they were laid off by Microsoft despite being a CWA union member. Earlier today, the CWA told Game Developer the layoffs "do not impact workers represented by CWA." A tweet sent to Game Developer, however, suggested otherwise.

Yet, after being contacted by Game Developer, CWA communications director Beth Allen reiterated that CWA-represented members at Microsoft were not impacted by the layoffs.

"As we said in our original statement, CWA-represented members at Microsoft were not included in the announced layoffs. Currently, CWA officially represents QA testers at ZeniMax, Raven, and Blizzard Albany. CWA is not considered the official representative by the company for other units until a majority of the employees in a bargaining unit authorize CWA as their representative," said Allen. 

"Yesterday's news underscores the urgency of formal union recognition for workers in the video game industry, and CWA activists won't stop until every worker at Activision Blizzard who wants a voice and an opportunity to bargain over these types of decisions can do so rather than being subjected to management's unilateral decision making."

Original story: The Communications Workers of America (CWA) labor union says none of its members were impacted by the seismic layoffs at Microsoft and Activision Blizzard.

The CWA currently represents hundreds of employees across the newly-merged conglomerate within subsidiaries like ZeniMax Studios, Raven Software, and Blizzard Albany.

In a statement sent to Game Developer, the union implored workers across the game industry to organize and ensure they can influence the nature of redundancy.

"Microsoft's announcement that it will be laying off 1,900 video game workers makes clear that, even when you work at a successful company in an extremely profitable industry, your livelihood is not protected without a voice on the job," said a CWA spokesperson.

"Every video game worker deserves not only their fair share, but also the peace of mind that comes from having a say over the impact of job cuts. Through organizing, workers have established basic workplace practices that are now common—from the eight hour work day, to the five day workweek. By coming together and exercising their right to organize, workers in the video game industry can make layoff protections standard practice for all workers."

"Companies will claim that we're all a family, but a family doesn’t layoff or outsource people."

The CWA said it will continue to support workers at Microsoft and across the industry who want to have a union voice. Wayne Dayberry, senior QA tester and member of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA within Microsoft, echoed those comments and said workers must rally together to protect each other.

"Companies will claim that we're all a family, but a family doesn’t layoff or outsource people. It's clear that one way or the other, the only way forward is for all of us to come together as workers to protect each other," he said. "Union representation can't always protect against layoffs, but through union representation and the bargaining process, video game workers can establish greater transparency and policies that put our needs first, including layoff protections."

The CWA initially opposed Microsoft's merger with Activision Blizzard and called on the FTC to "closely scrutinize the deal." It did, however, eventually throw its weight behind the move after entering into a labor neutrality agreement with Microsoft that lets workers "freely" unionize.

Data from the GDC 2024 State of the Industry report published earlier this month showed that while the majority of devs support unionization, very few are actively discussing the prospect within the workplace. That's despite notable figures like former Bungie chief legal officer Don McGowan calling on developers to unionize to combat some of the "dirtiest tricks" being used by employers.

Game Developer has reached out to the CWA to hear what advice the union would offer to devs looking to take the first steps on that path.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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