Microsoft has agreed to recognize the first labor union in its history, following a vote by a majority of around 300 quality-assurance workers at its video game subsidiary ZeniMax Studios. This will also be the largest union in the video game industry.
Microsoft acquired ZeniMax, the owner of popular video game franchises such as ‘The Elder Scrolls’ and ‘Fallout’, for $7.5 billion in 2021. The move to form a union at ZeniMax marks a significant milestone in the often tumultuous relationship between video game workers and their employers.
The video game industry has faced criticism in recent years over its treatment of workers, with many developers and testers working long hours for low pay and facing harsh deadlines. The formation of a union at ZeniMax is seen as a victory for workers who have long sought better working conditions and representation in the industry.
Microsoft has a history of unionization efforts within its ranks, but this marks the first time the company has agreed to recognize a union at one of its subsidiaries. In a statement, Microsoft said it “respects and supports the right of our employees to choose to join a union.”
The unionization process at ZeniMax began in 2020, when a group of workers at the studio began organizing with the help of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). The effort gained traction in the following months, with support from other workers and advocacy groups.
The vote to form the union took place in December 2022, with a majority of ZeniMax employees casting their ballots in favor of unionization. The exact number of workers who participated in the vote has not been disclosed.
The union will be affiliated with the IATSE, and will represent ZeniMax workers in negotiations with management over issues such as pay, benefits, and working conditions. It is not yet clear what specific demands the union will make, but it is expected to push for better pay and more predictable work schedules for its members.
The formation of the union at ZeniMax is a significant development for the video game industry, which has historically been resistant to unionization efforts. It remains to be seen how other game studios and companies will respond to the unionization of ZeniMax, and whether this will pave the way for more unions in the industry.
Regardless, the move is being celebrated by workers and advocates as a victory for fair treatment and representation in the video game industry. It is a reminder that even in the tech sector, where companies are often seen as cutting-edge and forward-thinking, labor struggles and the push for better working conditions are still very much a part of the conversation.