Video Game Workers at Microsoft and Activision Take Steps to Unionize

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Amanda Laven, a Q.A. employee involved in the union campaign at the studio, said workers were frustrated that the company had tried to stop their union election on the grounds that it involved only Q.A. workers rather than the whole studio. The National Labor Relations Board had rejected Activision’s attempts to stop the union election at its Wisconsin studio on similar grounds, but the company appealed to the labor board in this case as well.

“It’s just a stall tactic,” Ms. Laven said in an interview before the vote count.

An Activision spokesman said that the company’s operations in New York and Wisconsin were “very different” in their setup and that it believed the entire Albany studio should be eligible to vote. The spokesman said the company was “considering various legal options,” including seeking to overturn the election.

Activision workers seeking to unionize could find the company more receptive in the future.

In June, Microsoft announced an agreement with the Communications Workers of America in which it pledged to stay neutral if any of Activision’s U.S. employees sought to unionize after it completed its acquisition. Activision has about 7,000 employees in the country, most of whom are eligible to unionize.

Microsoft had a motive for seeking the neutrality agreement: The politically powerful communications workers union had raised questions about the acquisition, which regulators were vetting. The union said its concerns about the acquisition had been resolved after it reached the neutrality agreement.

The company hinted at the time that it would extend the neutrality agreement to current Microsoft employees, saying it was prepared to “build on” the deal. The union essentially tested that proposition when it sought to organize Q.A. workers at ZeniMax, and Microsoft followed through.

Microsoft may have had an additional reason to take a neutral stance. Showing that it has a healthy relationship with organized labor could help the company navigate the acquisition under the union-friendly Biden administration as scrutiny of the deal intensifies.

As if to underscore the point, the union’s president, Chris Shelton, met with the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission in October and urged regulators not to block the deal.

Karen Weise contributed reporting.

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