Microsoft wants the world to know that it supports the unionization of its workers—or at the very least that it will not stand in the way of any organizing efforts in its various studios around the world as it promised last year…
In a full page ad signed alongside the Communications Workers of America (CWA) that appeared in the Washington Post, the Xbox and Game Pass owner said that it is committed to creating the best working environments for its employees.
The ad also acknowledges the recent news that a new ZeniMax Media union formed in conjunction with CWA, which represents around 300 quality assurance testers in the studio ecosystem (id Software, Bethesda, etc.). Microsoft signed a neutrality agreement with CWA last year, noting at the time that it would not stand in the way of employees at its various studios if they wanted to organize. In return, CWA gave Microsoft its blessing related to the proposed $69B USD acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
Some analysts have said that this ad is Microsoft’s way of saying to the Federal Trade Commission (who currently opposes the transaction) that it is dealing in good faith and that the acquisition will be good for workers in the combined entity.
The full ad text below (as transcribed by The Verge):
“As we enter a new year, we remain committed to creating the best workplaces we can for people who make a living in the tech sector. When both labor and management bring their voices to the bargaining table, employees, shareholders and customers alike benefit.
This includes the more than 300 employees at Microsoft’s ZeniMax Media studios who have exercised their legal right to vote to form a union. This is in keeping with new groundbreaking labor neutrality principles that the Communications Workers of America and Microsoft established last year. During 2023, we hope to bring the same agreement and principles to Activision Blizzard, which Microsoft has proposed to acquire.
We aren’t asking the FTC to ignore competition concerns. On the contrary, we believe it’s important to explore solutions that protect competition and consumers while also promoting the needs of workers, economic growth and American innovation.
We believe this is the spirit that led Congress to establish the FTC in 1914.
It’s a spirit worth keeping alive today.”
The company on the other end of this proposed acquisition has not been as welcoming as Microsoft when it comes to workers unionizing. Activision Blizzard has fought against unionization at two studios—Blizzard Albany and Raven Software in Wisconsin—and both times the company has failed to stop quality assurance workers in those shops from successfully forming a union with the CWA.
It’s hard to know if Microsoft’s very public display of cooperation with the CWA will soften the stances of regulators in the U.S., European Union, or the UK at this point, and recently the company was given a setback from UK regulators, who said that it would need a lot more time to examine the deal than what was originally anticipated. Last week the Competition and Markets Authority said that it would need until April 26 to complete its review of the transaction–the original date was March 1. The agency said it would need more time because of the complexity of the investigation, the “large volume of evidence” it has to pour over, and the submissions from stakeholders and consumers in the UK.
While the CMA delay isn’t optimal, it is in line with the European Commission’s timeline of early- to mid-April. Microsoft will then (it is assumed, given what the company said in its pre-trial hearing with the FTC last week) work out any remedies with the FTC based on what it offers the CMA and EC. Should all of these agencies be satisfied, Microsoft hopes to have the acquisition buttoned up before the deadline of July 18—if it goes beyond that date it will abandon the deal and be forced to pay Activision Blizzard $3B in separation fees.