New Microsoft and CWA agreement assures union representation post Activision acquisition

Microsoft has gained yet another set of allies in its long road of approvals for its Activision Blizzard $68 billion buyout as it wins over the Communications Workers of America (CWA) with a new Labor Neutrality Agreement.

While Microsoft and Activision Blizzard are legally barred from certain levels of communication with one another as their potential merger remains under investigation, the two have followed similar paths on unionization efforts over the past two weeks.

Microsoft first announced it would adopt more pro-union policies at the beginning of the month as it looks to steer conversations around potential unionization efforts from partners, vendors and certain employee classes; roughly a week later Activision Blizzard settled its long public battle with developer studio Raven's Quality Assurance department's call for a union by starting collective bargaining negotiations, as well.

Starting this week, efforts from both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will coincide with the announcement that Microsoft and the CWA have entered into "a ground-breaking" labor neutrality pact.

Specifically, Microsoft and the CWA's agreement will apply at Activision Blizzard starting roughly 60 days after the acquisition is made official and what it does is provide a pathway for Activision Blizzard employees to organize and democratically start the process for collective bargaining if they chose so.

Based on the following five provisions, Activision Blizzard employees, who soon become Microsoft employees, will be able take a seat at the negotiation table for fairer employee labor practices, wages and communications.

  1. Microsoft will take a neutral approach when employees covered by the agreement express interest in joining a union.
  2. Covered employees will be able to easily exercise their right to communicate with other employees and union representatives about union membership in a way that encourages information sharing and avoids business disruptions.
  3. Employees will have access to an innovative technology-supported and streamlined process for choosing whether to join a union.
  4. Employees can maintain confidentiality and privacy of that choice if they wish.
  5. If a disagreement arises between the CWA and Microsoft under the agreement, the two organizations will work together promptly to reach an agreement and will turn to an expedited arbitration process if they cannot.

As noted in the announcement, this agreement doesn't take hold for former, current or even future employees of Activision Blizzard pre-Microsoft-acquisition. The agreement should also not be confused with the recent collective bargaining agreement struck by Activision and its gaming studio Raven, as that applies to a specific department within the studio, and not all Activision employees.

However, it does appear the new commitment between Microsoft and CWA will apply to all Activision Blizzard employees and goes a long way to assuage fears the CWA had about Microsoft's bid for the publisher.

"The agreement addresses CWA’s previous concerns regarding the acquisition, and, as a result, we support its approval and look forward to working collaboratively with Microsoft after this deal closes," according to CWA president Chris Shelton.

Microsoft still has over a year to get the other regulatory approvals from state, government and international boards to conclude its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, but winning over the CWA early is probably a very smart move.

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