Major video game labor union Communication Workers of America urged the European Commission to approve the pending Microsoft-Activision merger. Representatives of the union sent a letter to the executive vice president of the European Commission Margrethe Vestager, ahead of the commission’s closed-door meeting concerning the merger in Brussels.
The letter argued that the merger will have positive effects on labor organization within the industry. Accusations of a sexist and racist culture at Activision Blizzard emerged after the company was sued by the state of California. As the lawsuit continued, unionization efforts began across many of massive publisher’s various studios. Workers at Blizzard Albany and Raven Software successfully formed unions.
However, union members alleged faced company-created obstacles before and after the unionization process. Additionally, the ironically named Proletariat saw unionization efforts falter after Activision Blizzard allegedly deployed aggressive anti-union tactics, such as holding meetings with the intent to demoralize employees.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has pledged union neutrality with the CWA, ensuring that once the merger goes through, workers will be free to organize, as is required by law. Microsoft also recognized the recently organized ZeniMax union.
CWA President Chris Shelton argued in the letter that the union itself could act as a stopgap against the increased employer power created by a merger. He wrote, “When the Microsoft acquisition was announced, we studied the implications for labor markets and raised concerns about the potential for increased employer power over workers that could worsen labor monopsony, leading to lower wages and less bargaining power over working conditions.”
“After we raised those concerns, we were able to enter a dialogue with Microsoft that resulted in an agreement to ensure the workers of Activision Blizzard have a clear path to collective bargaining if the merger is completed. Microsoft’s binding commitments will give employees a seat at the table and ensure that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard benefits the company’s workers and the broader video game labor market. Collective bargaining is an effective counterbalance to employer power over the labor market, as is well documented in empirical research.”
The CWA’s press release about the letter emphasized the sometimes-limited power US workers can exercise in organizing. Workers across industries involved in unionization efforts are allegedly fired for participating, without the companies in question facing consequences for the practice.
Shelton also directly urged the commission to approve the merger, “Given the clear pathway to enforceable behavioral remedies for potential consumer harms articulated by the European Commission and other regulators, we hope you will approve this merger and help make history in rebalancing power in labor markets.”
The union continuing to throw its support behind the merger adds another wrinkle to the embattled process. The Federal Trade Commission is currently suing Microsoft in an attempt to prevent the merger. Microsoft also recently signed a deal to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo platforms.