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Zenimax QA workers form union

Microsoft has formally recognized the union in accordance with labor neutrality agreement

Microsoft is now the second AAA gaming publisher to see unionization in its workforce, as Zenimax Workers United and the Communications Workers of America today announced that a supermajority of roughly 300 QA developers across Zenimax's US operations came out in favor of unionization.

The developers gave their support either by signing a union authorization card or voting through an online portal.

Microsoft has already recognized the union, the group said.

In June, Microsoft entered a labor neutrality agreement with the CWA in which the union would support regulator approval for the acquisition of Activision Blizzard in exchange for Microsoft taking a neutral stance on prospective unionization activity.

While that deal only applied to Activision Blizzard employees, Microsoft also adopted a series of policies that month regarding labor relations that stated a desire for collaborative approaches to make it simpler for employees to make informed decisions on unionization.

"Microsoft has lived up to its commitment to its workers and let them decide for themselves whether they want a union," CWA president Chris Shelton said.

"Other video game and tech giants have made a conscious choice to attack, undermine, and demoralize their own employees when they join together to form a union. 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."

A Microsoft representative confirmed the news, saying, "In light of the results of the recent unionization vote, we recognize the Communications Workers of America as the bargaining representative for the Quality Assurance employees at ZeniMax. We look forward to engaging in good faith negotiations as we work towards a collective bargaining agreement."

While this is the first US game developer union at Microsoft, it will be joined by more if the Activision Blizzard acquisition goes through.

QA developers at Raven Software and Blizzard Albany successfully formed unions last year, and 57 employees at Spellbreak developer Proletariat – which was just acquired by Activision Blizzard in June – last week announced their intention to unionize the studio.

"Before us is an opportunity to make big changes and bring equity to the video game industry," said Zenimax Online Studios senior QA audio tester Victoria Banos.

"We want to put an end to sudden periods of crunch, unfair pay, and lack of growth opportunities within the company. Our union will push for truly competitive pay, better communication between management and workers, a clear path for those that want to progress their career, and more."

A Kotaku feature last year detailed crunch and poor treatment of Zenimax QA employees at the company, particularly during development of Fallout 76.

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Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.