Microsoft signs labor neutrality agreement with CWA ahead of Activision Blizzard deal

The agreement will allow covered employees at Activision Blizzard to "freely and fairly make a choice about union representation."

Microsoft has entered into a labor neutrality agreement with Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest media labor union in the United States, ahead of its high-profile Activision Blizzard acquisition.

The agreement will take effect at Activision Blizzard 60 days after Microsoft's acquisition closes, and will allow workers to "freely and fairly make a choice about union representation."

More specifically, it includes five basic provisions that will apply to Activision Blizzard employees after the deal has closed, including a commitment from Microsoft to take a neutral approach when employees covered by the agreement express interest in joining a union. It will also allow employees to "easily exercise their right to communicate with other employees and union representatives about union membership."

"Employees will have access to an innovative technology-supported and streamlined process for choosing whether to join a union. Employees can maintain confidentiality and privacy of that choice if they wish," reads a press release.

"If a disagreement arises between CWA and Microsoft under the agreement, the two organizations will work together promptly to reach an agreement and will turn to an expedited arbitration process if they cannot. The agreement does not impact the Activision workforce before the close of the transaction."

The news comes after QA employees at Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software voted to unionize under the Game Workers Alliance banner with assistance from CWA.

That union has now been recognized by Activision Blizzard, which began "good faith negotiations" with those Raven workers last week to strike up a collective bargaining agreement.

CWA president Chris Sheldon said its labor neutrality agreement with Microsoft will help create a pathway for more Activision Blizzard employees to "exercise their democratic rights to organise and collectively bargain after the close of the Microsoft acquisition."

"Microsoft’s binding commitments will give employees a seat at the table and ensure that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard benefits the company's workers and the broader video game labor market," added Sheldon.

"The agreement addresses CWA’s previous concerns regarding the acquisition, and, as a result, we support its approval and look forward to working collaboratively with Microsoft after this deal closes."

Microsoft president and vice chair, Brad Smith, echoed those sentiments and said the company's $68.7 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard is an opportunity to "innovate and grow" where labor organization is concerned.

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