Subcontractors Incorporated Into Microsoft Bargaining Unit with CWA, Signaling New Pathway to Collective Bargaining for Contractors in the Gaming Industry
(Rockville, MD)— As a result of extensive worker organizing, Microsoft has agreed to incorporate a group of 77 Microsoft contract workers into the ZeniMax Workers United-CWA union, which represents over 300 quality assurance workers at Microsoft subsidiary ZeniMax Media. The use of contractors is common in the video game industry, and they often earn lower wages, have fewer benefits, and face less job stability than the direct employees they work alongside. By recognizing the workers as members of the union, ZeniMax and Microsoft management are setting a new standard for workers across the gaming industry.
As a result of their organizing campaign, temporary workers were able to establish greater job security. Twenty-three of the 77 workers will be hired into full-time permanent jobs with a 22.2% pay increase. The remaining 54 workers will receive an immediate 15.3% pay increase from $18/hour to $20.75 an hour and be hired as temporary employees once negotiations conclude and the collective bargaining agreement is ratified. Other improvements for the workers include paid holidays and paid sick leave, which had previously only been available for workers in locations which mandate paid time off for illness.
Each worker will also get a free copy of Starfield, the major game release they had worked on. This had not previously been a practice for contractors.
As bargaining continues, ZeniMax Workers United-CWA will continue to advocate for more contractors to have a pathway to permanent positions in the future.
“It is incredible that our efforts have led to this historic development—when my 77 coworkers and I decided to form a union, we wanted to ensure we could secure the same working conditions, fair pay and benefits as our directly employed ZeniMax coworkers. Microsoft took the high road by recognizing us as members of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA. We are now stronger at the bargaining table and are working to secure a fair contract for all workers—direct employees and contractors. We are all a part of ZeniMax Studio’s success and we all deserve our fair share. We hope to set a new precedent for workers across Microsoft and the entire gaming industry so that all workers, regardless of their employment status, are able to improve their working conditions through collective bargaining,”said Chris Lusco, Associate QA Tester and member of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA.
When the original group of 300 ZeniMax quality assurance workers announced their intention to form a union, Microsoft, in accordance with its stated labor principles, agreed to remain neutral and respect its workers’ right to make their own decision about whether or not to join the union. On January 3, 2023, the company swiftly recognized ZeniMax Workers United/CWA after a neutral third party confirmed that a majority of workers favored joining the union.
Under the terms of a ground-breaking, legally-binding labor neutrality agreement, which will go into full effect later this month, Microsoft will remain neutral when employees at recently-acquired Activision Blizzard studios express interest in joining a union, providing a clear path to collective bargaining for thousands of workers.
The Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA) is a network of worker-organizers and their staff working every single day to build the voice and power necessary to ensure the future of the tech, game, and digital industries in the United States and Canada. CODE-CWA is a project of the Communications Workers of America which represents hundreds of thousands of workers throughout tech, media, telecom, and other industries who stand together to fight for justice on the job and in our communities