Microsoft is now home to the Union’s largest push-in gaming

A Microsoft logo hangs in front of a green grid.

picture: Microsoft / Kotaku

The recent wave of unionization in the gaming industry has just exploded. Around 300 quality assurance employees ZenMaxowned by developers of Bethesda and other studios for games like starfield and Elder Scrolls Online, announced today that they will be unionizing with the Communications Workers of America. and unlike Union Drives at Activision BlizzardMicrosoft, which bought ZeniMax in 2021, said it won’t stand in their way either.

“We applaud Microsoft for remaining neutral in this process and allowing workers to choose whether they want a union,” CWA President Christopher Shelton said in a press release. “The company is delivering on the commitments it set out in its Labor Policies earlier this year, while sending a clear message to the video game industry: The right to freely and fairly elect union representation should rest in the hands of workers, not them Administration.”

According to the CWA, which also organized the QA Stores at Raven Software and Blizzard AlbanyZeniMax managers have received clear instructions from Microsoft to remain neutral during the process. Over the next four weeks, QA staff in all US offices will either sign union cards or vote through an electronic portal. After majority support, the union will appear to be recognized by Microsoft and become the largest yet as workers across the gaming industry seek greater workplace power.

Continue reading: The human toll of Fallout 76’s disastrous launch

QA staff are some of the lowest paid, most overworked, and most precarious employees at large gaming companies, and ZeniMax’s are no exception. As kotaku reported earlier this yearthose involved in the difficult development of Fallout 76 has struggled with long stretches of crisis and even health issues, allegedly stemming from the ongoing overwork. Through its new union, ZeniMax Workers United, the group said it wants to address issues related to scheduling, pay and management accountability.

“More salary, that’s the main issue for most of us,” said a recent QA tester who asked to remain anonymous kotaku. “The benefits are fine, I just don’t make enough money for them to matter.”

Microsoft originally made his promise to remain neutral on union matters as part of its bid to secure a regulator-approved $69 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard. The CWA announced its support for the merger as a result of the move, which coincides with increased unionization efforts in other areas of tech, including at Apple and Google. But the real test of Microsoft’s enlightened stance on work organization will come at the negotiating table, when ZeniMax employees attempt to negotiate wages, benefits, and other working conditions as part of their first contract.

Additional reporting by Sisi Jiang.

Update 12/5/22 6:07pm ET: Added quotes from a current employee and clarified that proposed union includes QA staff in all US offices. Microsoft is now home to the Union’s largest push-in gaming

Curtis Crabtree

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