Workers at Microsoft’s ZeniMax Media are organizing in hopes of unionizing, Communications Workers of America announced Monday. Roughly 300 QA workers are currently voting to decide whether they’ll unionize.

The vote is happening outside of the National Labor Relations Board’s purview because of Microsoft’s neutrality agreement signed in June, according to The New York Times. Workers began voting — via a union authorization card or “anonymously for or against unionization on an electronic platform” — the same day Activision Blizzard QA workers in its Albany studio voted to unionize in a 14-0 count. The vote will continue over the next month.

ZeniMax Media is a subsidiary of Microsoft that was acquired in a $7.5 billion deal in 2020. It includes studios like Bethesda, id Software, and ZeniMax Online — makers of games like Starfield, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Doom. QA workers included in the union are located in offices in Maryland and Texas, a CWA spokesperson said.

“When workers have the opportunity to join a union without company interference, it empowers them to have their voices heard in the workplace,” CWA president Christopher Shelton said in a statement sent to press. “We are glad to support ZeniMax quality assurance workers as they join the growing video game labor movement in the U.S. These workers are making history, joining the wave of game and tech workers at Activision, Alphabet, and dozens of other companies who have organized with CODE-CWA to build a better workplace.”

QA workers are essential to the video game industry, but often considered the most vulnerable of its workers due to low pay and intense crunch. It’s no surprise that this group of workers is leading the video game industry’s union push. ZeniMax QA workers have reportedly faced these same issues; a Kotaku report from June detailed QA workers’ experience on Fallout 76 — long hours, low pay, and and poor working conditions.

ZeniMax QA workers are looking to secure fair treatment and wages, opportunities for advancements, accountability and transparency, and “a voice in decision making around scheduling [and] workload,” among other things, the group, ZeniMax Workers United, wrote on Twitter.

“We know we have a unique opportunity to be trailblazers for a new era of the game industry and we don’t take this lightly,” ZeniMax Workers United wrote. “Our union will be a place where ALL workers can collectively participate in decision making and push for changes that reflect the wants & needs of workers.”

Microsoft promised neutrality in June as part of a labor neutrality agreement. That’s basically a contract that says Microsoft can’t deter union efforts — it must stay “neutral” in all interactions. After Microsoft signed the agreement, CWA expressed support for Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. At the time, Microsoft president Brad Smith denied it was a play to ease the $68.7 billion deal through the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust regulators. The neutrality agreement extends to all Microsoft employees, as well as Activision Blizzard employees that will come over should the deal go through.

Microsoft has not yet responded to Polygon’s request for comment.

Regardless, Microsoft’s neutrality play is in stark contrast to Activision Blizzard’s response to unionization within its company — it’s tried to fight the efforts every step of the way, arguing that all workers at a particular studio should vote on the union.

“So far, Microsoft has remained committed to staying neutral throughout this process,” ZeniMax Workers United tweeted. “As we vote over the next 4 weeks in our democratic election, we hope that you will support our journey towards building lasting positive change for workers, gamers & the industry as a whole.”





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