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Microsoft’s pending purchase of Activision Blizzard will likely be coming with a few new strings attached.
The Activision-Microsoft deal still hasn’t closed yet because it’s stuck in legal limbo awaiting regulatory approval. One of those regulators, the Federal Trade Commission, recently announced it planned to sue to block the merger at least temporarily, arguing it would stifle competition in the gaming market.
But one thing is clear: the longer this process is dragged out, the more potential there is for other divisions of Activision to unionize. That could greatly change the way Microsoft has to interact with its influx of new employees, who might take advantage of the restructuring to renegotiate salaries, workplace policies, or push for other changes through the newfound might of collective bargaining.
Since the $69 billion buyout was announced almost a year ago, three divisions of Activision Blizzard have already unionized under the Communications Workers of America Union (CWA). The push to unionize Activision kicked off last May with Raven Software, a studio in Wisconsin that handles quality testing for Blizzard’s hit “Call of Duty” titles. In addition, last month, Blizzard’s Albany studio voted to unionize with CWA, as did another Blizzard studio, the aptly-named Proletariat.
Microsoft itself isn’t without a union. Last week workers at ZeniMax Studios (the owner of publisher Bethesda, which Microsoft bought in 2021 for $7.5 billion) voted to join the CWA, making it the latest and largest gaming union so far.
So what would happen to the existing unionized divisions of Activision once the company is absorbed into Microsoft?
For starters, the tech giant is already trying to promote itself as pro-union. This week Microsoft ran an ad in the Washington Post that said in part, “when both labor and management bring their voices to the bargaining table, employees, shareholders and customers alike benefit.”
Microsoft also voluntarily recognized the ZeniMax union after the buyout, making good on its prior promise to “remain neutral” about unionizing at Activision Blizzard or its own business. Given all the bad press surrounding Activision that’s materialized in just the last year, it’s understandable why Microsoft would want to look like the “good cop” in this scenario.
There is some legal precedent about how a non-unionized company has to treat individual unionized employees it might obtain as a result of a merger. In 2019 the NLRB heard a case where a nursing home operator bought out another facility that had a unionized workforce and only hired back some of the workers – which the NLRB turned out to be fine with, since the new owner didn’t promise to hire back every employee and wasn’t found to have discriminated against union workers specifically.
That’s definitely something for Activision’s unionized workers to keep in mind, since Microsoft could technically get away with firing them post-merger as long as it avoids blatant discrimination. “Microsoft would recognize the existing unionized workforce at Activision if acquired and would have a legally binding agreement with CWA to remain neutral if any additional Activision units wished to unionize,” said CWA’s communications director Beth Allen. She added that if Microsoft reneges on this for some reason, there’s an “agreed-upon arbitration process” to try and resolve the issue, but if not, the CWA could take the company to court for violating the agreement.
For now, it appears at least that Microsoft is compelled not to pull the brakes on the union efforts altogether. That said, it remains to be seen how far its goodwill will stretch considering Big Tech’s overall attitude towards unions is chilly at best, and openly hostile at worst. – Samson Amore
Before you get too excited about the Inflation Reduction Act's incentives to purchase used EVs, take a look at the fine print: the vehicles must be sold for less than $25,000.
On this episode of the Behind Her Empire podcast, True Botanicals founder Hillary Peterson discusses her journey in creating a non toxic and sustainable skincare brand.
What We’re Reading...
- Don't believe everything you read: employment is actually surging in tech, with 17,600 new jobs added in December and record gains in 4 out of 5 sectors.
- The only problem? Layoffs are quickly catching up, with 1,000 companies cutting some 150,000 employees from this time last year.
-If you are still hiring, TikTok is here to help.
- NASA has announced funding for a slew of experimental space projects, including a pellet-beam propulsion system, fluidic telescopes and a Diffractive Interfero Coronagraph Exoplanet Resolver. You know, one of those things.