ZeniMax Workers United-CWA collective bargaining yields first-of-its-kind tentative agreement with Microsoft over use of AI in the workplace
In the course of bargaining an unprecedented union contract at Microsoft subsidiary ZeniMax, 376 members of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA have won a tentative agreement to govern the company’s adoption of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace. The agreement commits ZeniMax to human-centered AI implementations and six guiding principles for the development and use of AI.
ZeniMax Workers United-CWA continues to blaze a trail for workers in the US video game industry. In January, it became the first certified union at Microsoft in the US and the largest union-represented studio in the US video game industry. It is now also the first unit at a US tech major and the first in the video game industry to reach an agreement over the use of AI in the workplace. The agreement comes on the heels of CWA’s announcement in December of its Principles for Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace. The agreement reflects the union's ongoing commitment to using the collective bargaining process to address the impact of emerging technologies on workers.
The agreement commits ZeniMax to uses of AI that augment human ingenuity and capacities, to ensure that these tools enhance worker productivity, growth, and satisfaction without causing workers harm. Zenimax has agreed to provide notice to the union in cases where AI implementation may impact the work of union members and to bargain those impacts upon request. It establishes as guiding principles that AI implementations at work must be:
- Reliable and Safe
- Private and Secure
- Transparent, and
“Coming to this agreement was a high priority for us. It’s hard to say how developments with AI may impact our work, but now we can be more confident that the agreement will help to protect us as we navigate the potential adoption of AI into our workflow. It is crucial that all workers have a voice in what role AI plays in their work and can hold their employers accountable for the impacts of its use. This agreement empowers us to shape the ways we may choose to use AI in our work and also gives us the means to address those impacts before their potential implementation,” said Dylan Burton, Senior QA Tester and member of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA.
ZeniMax is a video game production company with studios in Maryland and Texas known for popular games such as Elder Scrolls, DOOM, Quake Champions, and Fallout.
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.
In December 2023, CWA announced that a group of 77 Microsoft contractors have joined the ZeniMax Workers United-CWA union resulting in greater job security and pay raises for workers. It is exceedingly rare for a bargaining unit to include contract workers alongside direct employees due to the reluctance by management to recognize their responsibility to subcontracted workers. By incorporating the 77 unionized subcontracted workers into the unit, ZeniMax and Microsoft management, alongside workers, are signaling a new path forward for organized direct employees and contractors across the gaming industry.
“This tentative agreement underscores how collective bargaining can give workers a voice in the ways emerging technologies like AI are implemented in the workplace. Worker input is critical for ensuring that AI is human-centered, and this legally-binding agreement will help protect both workers and consumers from potential harms.” said Claude Cummings Jr., President, Communications Workers of America.
First-ever comprehensive labor neutrality agreement in semiconductor industry sets historic precedent