US Reporter

Microsoft’s ZeniMax Studios Becomes First US Studio to Unionize

Workers at Microsoft’s ZeniMax Studios successfully formed the first US tech giant’s union.

According to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, a “supermajority” of ZeniMax employees supported the union, which Microsoft will recognize.

ZeniMax Studios is a video game production company that owns popular games such as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. The decision to unionize at ZeniMax follows a trend of increasing unionization efforts in the US technology industry.

Other companies such as Apple, Amazon and Google have also faced industrial action and union organizing efforts in recent years as workers demand more from employers as the cost of living rises.

Companies have historically been a major opponent of union campaigns. In this instance, though, Microsoft has decided to accept the union at ZeniMax, demonstrating a change in the organization’s perspective on labor relations.

It remains to be seen how the existence of the union will affect the relationship between the company and its employees in the future.

“Other video games and tech giants have made a conscious choice to attack, undermine, and demoralize their own employees when they join together to form a union,” CWA’s president Chris Shelton stated.

“Microsoft is charting a different course which will strengthen its corporate culture and ability to serve its customers and should serve as a model for the industry and as a blueprint for regulators.”

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ZeniMax Studio

Microsoft has recognized the WashTech (WashTech) Washington Alliance as the first alliance of one of the US studios, ZeniMax.

WashTech, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), represents around 300 quality assurance workers at ZeniMax’s offices in Maryland and Texas. 

Furthermore, the union will allow collective bargaining over issues such as pay and working conditions and aims to improve job opportunities and reduce overwork and unfair pay practices.

By voluntarily agreeing to bargain with unionized employees, Microsoft avoids a formal process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, which can often lead to legal battles. 

The CWA has also been involved in unionization efforts at gaming company Activision Blizzard, which has resisted the campaigns. Last year, Microsoft announced a deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, which prompted the government to sue to block the deal over competition concerns. 

As part of its efforts to win support for the merger, Microsoft struck a pact with the CWA to remain neutral in labor disputes. It is still being determined how the new union at ZeniMax will affect Microsoft’s operations.

“We look forward to engaging in good faith negotiations as we work towards a collective bargaining agreement,” the spokesperson stated.

Former Issue

Earlier in December, the United States government reportedly entered into a legal battle with Microsoft to block the tech giant’s plan to purchase gaming company Activision Blizzard, the company behind popular games like Call of Duty. 

Regulators have cited competition concerns as the main reason for trying to block the deal. They are worried that Activision Blizzard’s games will no longer be offered on non-Microsoft gaming consoles if the acquisition goes through.

Microsoft has said it intends to fight to complete the $69 billion deal, which would be the largest in the company’s history. 

The outcome of this legal battle will have significant implications for the gaming industry, as it could shape the competition between different gaming console platforms and the content that is available on them. 

It is currently unclear how the case will play out and the ultimate outcome.

In response to the legal challenge, Microsoft President Brad Smith has stated that the company has “complete confidence in our case and welcomes the opportunity to present our case in court.” 

The case against Microsoft is seen as one of the most high-profile legal fights to emerge from President Joe Biden’s promise to take a stricter stance against monopolies. The planned acquisition has also raised concerns in other countries, including the United Kingdom.

The outcome of this legal battle will have significant implications for the gaming industry, as it could shape the competition between gaming console platforms and the available content. 

It is currently unclear how the case will play out and the ultimate outcome.

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Activision Blizzard

Microsoft’s plan to purchase gaming company Activision Blizzard, the maker of popular games like Call of Duty, faced a legal challenge from the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over competition concerns. 

Activision Blizzard is one of a small number of top video game developers that produce high-quality games for multiple devices, and the FTC fears that if the deal goes through, Microsoft would have both the ways and the motive to injure competition by controlling pricing, making games worse on its competitors’ consoles, or withholding content from those consoles entirely, leading to harm for consumers.

The FTC pointed to Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax, which owns the video game studio Bethesda Softworks, as an example of the company’s potential to harm competition. Microsoft has announced that several of Bethesda’s future games will be exclusive to Microsoft consoles. 

To alleviate competition concerns, Microsoft has offered to make Call of Duty available on Nintendo consoles for ten years if the Activision Blizzard acquisition is approved and has made a similar offer to rival Sony. 

The outcome of this legal battle will have significant implications for the gaming industry and the competition between different gaming console platforms.

Photo: IB Times

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