ZeniMax Workers United, a group of QA workers at ZeniMax, have officially launched their union alongside the Communication Workers of America. They are the first group of workers at Microsoft to formally unionize.
Objectives for ZeniMax Workers United
Announced through their Twitter, ZeniMax Workers United is proud to give themselves a seat at the table. By organizing, the developers aim to “ensure we receive fair compensation for the work that we do. A union on the job will protect us and make sure our passion isn’t taken for granted.”
A democratic election will occur over the next four weeks for ZeniMax Workers United. By organizing, they hope to accomplish the following:
- Fair treatment for all individuals and wages commensurate with the value they provide.
- Opportunities for advancement within the company.
- Accountability and transparency.
- A voice in decision making around scheduling, workload, and more.
Microsoft is reportedly remaining neutral throughout the entire process, matching what Phil Spencer has said in the past. With Microsoft hoping to acquire Activision Blizzard, the topic of Activision’s unions has come up.
“We absolutely support employees’ right to organize and form unions,” Spencer states. “Once the deal closes, we would absolutely support employees’ organization that’s in place. We think it is a right of employees and something that can be a part of a relationship between a company and people who work at the company.”
About ZeniMax Media
ZeniMax Media has been a subsidiary of Xbox Game Studios since 2021. Additionally, they are the parent company of several big developers in the gaming industry:
- Alpha Dog Games
- Arkane Studios
- Bethesda Softworks
- id Software
- Roundhouse games
- Tango Gameworks
- ZeniMax Online Studios
Together, these teams make some of the biggest franchises in gaming, ranging from The Elder Scrolls to DOOM.
Given the large size of these teams and the games they develop, the need for unionization has long been overdue. Former employees are speaking up on the news, stating that working conditions include 60+ hour work weeks for a salary of only $25,000.
In total, QA teams at seven studios will be participating in the coming vote. They include Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios teams in Dallas, Austin, and Rockville, ZeniMax Online Studios, id Software, and Arkane Austin.
The Topic of Unionization Is Becoming More and More Prevalent in the Gaming Industry
The news of ZeniMax Workers United highlights one of the biggest topics in gaming for 2022: the unionization of developers.
It began with Raven Software QA testers and the Game Workers Alliance. After protesting Activision’s decision to lay off developers despite the promise of raises and job security, workers went on strike. The strike began in December of 2021 and turned into formally organizing and voting to approve unionization in May 2022. Activision has fought with the workers every step of the way.
“It’s a very preliminary win for the union at this point. It gives them a little bit of leverage,” said former chairman of the NLRB Wila Liebman. “It’s part of their tactics, you know, hit them wherever they can, to put pressure on the company in order to reach an agreement with them and to stop violating the law.”
Despite Activision Blizzard’s attempted vote delay, GWA Albany won their vote and has now organized.
Reggie Fils-Aime, former Nintendo of America President, commented on the matter amidst his former company being accused of union busting.
“From my perspective, companies need to look hard at their practices and make sure they are creating a worker-friendly environment,” he said. “Unfortunately, so many of these organizations that are in the news are there because there are issues that are coming up. Again, not one or two issues but systematic issues that are running rampant in organizations. So, that’s certainly giving rise to a mentality of more unionization.”
Elsewhere, BioWare QA contractors at Keywords Studios unionized in June. After a unanimous vote of 16-0, the union began collective bargaining the following week.