Microsoft recognizes its first union as ZeniMax software testers organize

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Lisbon , Portugal – 3 November 2022; Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President, Microsoft, at a press conference during day two of Web Summit 2022 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)
Stephen McCarthy | Sportsfile | Web Summit | Getty Images

Microsoft said Tuesday that it has recognized its first union of employees in the software maker’s 47-year history.

Workers at airlines, automakers, schools and government agencies belong to unions, but collective bargaining hasn’t taken hold at large technology companies, where employees often receive high wages.

Amazon and Apple have not been especially accommodating to employees who have tried to establish unions. Last year, Microsoft said it would support approaches that would make it simpler for its employees to join unions.

In recent months three groups of employees at video game publisher Activision Blizzard, which Microsoft is working to acquire, have unionized, but Microsoft has yet to complete the nearly $69 billion deal that competition regulators have pushed back on. Last week, the Communications Workers of America said a supermajority of employees at Proletariat, a Boston-based game studio Activision Blizzard acquired in mid-2022, had voted to unionize.

Now U.S. quality-assurance employees across multiple studios at ZeniMax, a video game publisher Microsoft bought in 2021 for $8.1 billion, are organizing with the CWA, which has also worked with the Activision Blizzard workers. ZeniMax publishes “Doom,” “Fallout,” “Quake” and “The Elder Scrolls,” among other games.

“In light of the results of the recent unionization vote, we recognize the Communications Workers of America (CWA) as the bargaining representative for the Quality Assurance employees at ZeniMax,” a spokesperson for Microsoft and ZeniMax wrote in an email to CNBC. “We look forward to engaging in good-faith negotiations as we work towards a collective bargaining agreement.”

A supermajority of ZeniMax workers said they wanted to join the union, the CWA said in a statement. Microsoft operates 23 internal game studios in addition to selling Xbox consoles and operating gaming services such as Game Pass subscription packages. The workers become the largest group of quality-assurance testers at any U.S. game studio, the CWA said.

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