Posts with «unions» label

Sega of America workers have ratified their union contract

Workers at Sega of America, a division of Sega Sammy Holdings Inc., have officially ratified their union contract, as reported by Bloomberg. This makes it one of the first major North American video-game companies to take this step, which could bode well for future organized labor pushes in the industry.

The contract was ratified after workers overwhelmingly voted to unionize last year. It covers around 150 people working in various departments throughout the company, including brand marketing, games as a service, localization, sales and quality assurance. The union is called the Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega (AEGIS-CWA) and it organizes with the Communications Workers of America.

There are already some provisions in place for workers as part of the contract, including a minimum pay increase of 4 percent in 2024, 3 percent in 2025 and 2.5 percent in 2026. There are also layoff protections, codified benefits like health insurance, a severance inclusion and a commitment to credit all workers on games.

“We’re hopeful that in the midst of extensive layoffs, workers across the video game industry will see organizing as a pathway to improve working conditions for all of us,” wrote Jasmin Hernandez, a member of AEGIS-CWA, in a statement provided to Engadget.

Sega wasn’t exactly happy about the push toward labor rights and unionization. The company faced an unfair labor practice complaint after it announced plans to lay off 40 percent of the union's bargaining unit. The company did lay off some of these people, as promised, but the union was able to reach an agreement to keep many workers employed. 

Labor is having a moment in the games industry. ZeniMax Workers United joined with the CWA last year to offer union protection to 300 quality assurance workers. Over 600 Activision QA testers have joined a union, making it the biggest worker-formed organization in video games. Avalanche Studios, Raven Software and several small development studios have all also unionized in the past year or so.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Activision's union, with 600 members, is now the biggest one in video games

The number of unionized workers for Microsoft's video game subsidiaries keeps growing, and the latest group to join the pool is the largest one yet. Approximately 600 quality assurance workers at Activision have joined the Communications Workers of America (CWA), making them the biggest certified union in the US video game industry. They're also the first Activision workers to organize under the agreement between Microsoft and the CWA. If you'll recall, Microsoft agreed to respect the right of Activision Blizzard workers to unionize as part of its efforts to secure regulatory approval for its $68.7 billion takeover of the video game developer. 

CWA President Claude Cummings Jr. said Microsoft kept its promise to let workers decide for themselves whether they want a union. Part of Microsoft's pledge when it agreed to make a pact with the CWA was that it would take neutral approach during a union campaign, and the company said it didn't interfere or influence people's votes. 

Another element of their agreement was giving employees access to "innovative technology-supported and streamlined process for choosing whether to join a union," which includes not having to petition the National Labor Relations Board for an election. In this instance, the workers only had to sign a union authorization card or to vote online. According to The New York Times, 390 workers voted in favor of forming a union, while eight people were opposed to it. Around 200 more didn't cast their vote. 

In early 2023, Microsoft also recognized a union with 300 workers for Zenimax, the owner of Bethesda and another one of the company's video gaming subsidiaries, which was the largest one for the video game industry at the time. Those workers also unionized under the simpler process enabled by the company's agreement with CWA. By the end of the year, Microsoft agreed to hire 77 temporary QA contractors as full-time unionized Zenimax employees, which was a welcomed win for workers in an industry beset by layoffs.  

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

NLRB finds that eBay and subsidiary TCGPlayer engaged in union-busting practices

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that eBay has violated the rights of unionized workers at TCGPlayer, a trading card marketplace owned by the company. This comes in response to charges filed by the Communications Workers of America back in March of this year. eBay has allegedly refused to recognize TCGPlayer’s worker union and it delayed participating in any bargaining practices and it has also refused to divulge any information with the group that the union is legally entitled to.

As part of its examination of the issue, the NLRB said that because eBay and TCGPlayer broke the law, the company must face legal consequences for its union-busting practices. The union, which officially formed in March following numerous anti-union actions from eBay and TCGPlayer, was denied representation during disciplinary investigations. The NLRB also found that eBay was changing working conditions and benefits without engaging in bargaining with the group. On top of that, eBay is said to have even enforced rules that would punish any workers’ elections to unionize.

While the NLRB lays out evidence of eBay’s union-busting practices, it did not officially issue a decision on the matter. The agency is still waiting on the company’s response to the issue. “Now that the board has come to a decision on eBay’s illegal practices, we hope the company will see the light, obey labor law and engage in good faith bargaining practices so that workers can secure a strong union contract,” Dennis Trainor, Communications Workers of America District 1 Vice-President, said in a statement. eBay could not be reached for comment.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Microsoft agrees to union contract terms involving the use of AI

Microsoft has agreed to union contract language regarding its use of artificial intelligence, which should give workers a voice when challenging how the technology’s deployed, as reported by Bloomberg. This is the first US instance of collective bargaining in Microsoft’s history and could be a huge step for those employed with the tech giant.

This came to pass as part of negotiations with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union and involves contract language that covers a few hundred staffers at Microsoft’s game studio ZeniMax, which includes well-known subsidiaries like Bethesda and Arkane, among others.

The gist here is that the contract language incorporates Microsoft’s previously-announced AI principles, sort of a ten commandments type deal. The language dictates that AI systems will “treat all people fairly” and “empower everyone.” To that end, it will give employees covered under the contract an avenue of recourse should they feel that Microsoft isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Microsoft even hired dozens of ZeniMax contract workers as full-time employees, potentially as a show of good faith.

“The goal is to ensure tools and technologies benefit rather than harm workers,” the contract states. The language stipulates that Microsoft must inform the CWA whenever AI or related automation technology is implemented in a way that could impact workers. If requested, the company must enter into good-faith negotiations regarding the change. This is a big first step, considering Microsoft’s massive play into the AI space via integration with OpenAI products.

This would be news on its own, given Microsoft’s former hesitance to engage with unions in any way, shape or form. However, there’s more. The company also entered into a partnership with the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest federation of unions. The entities struck a deal that ensures Microsoft will remain neutral in efforts by unions to encourage workers to join up.

The partnership also creates an “open dialogue” to discuss AI and how it impacts workers. The AFL-CIO calls this team-up the “first of its kind between a labor organization and a technology company.” Microsoft has committed to share information with labor leaders regarding impactful AI trends and consider “worker perspectives” when developing new technologies.

Why the about face? There’s a whole lot of uncertainty out there regarding artificial intelligence and how it will impact workers across multiple industries. It looks like Microsoft is setting itself up to be the “adult in the room” when compared to rival entities. It’s worth noting, though, that Microsoft shareholders rejected a proposal last week that would slow down AI spending until a risk-assessment project could be conducted.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Microsoft is hiring dozens of ZeniMax QA contractors as unionized employees

Game studios and publishers have collectively laid off an estimated 9,000-plus workers this year. Microsoft (which itself has laid off workers from Xbox teams in 2023) is bucking the trend to a certain extent by hiring dozens of ZeniMax quality assurance contractors as unionized employees.

The company agreed at the beginning of this year to formally recognize a union representing around 300 QA workers at ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda that Microsoft bought in 2021. As part of bargaining talks that have been ongoing since April, Microsoft has agreed to hire 77 temporary workers and incorporate them into the ZeniMax Workers United-CWA (Communications Workers of America) union.

Microsoft is hiring 23 of the workers as full-time, permanent employees with a pay increase of 22.2 percent. The other 54 workers are getting an immediate pay bump from $18 per hour to $20.75 an hour. Once the collective bargaining agreement is ratified, Microsoft will hire those workers as temporary employees.

According to the CWA, the new employees will now receive paid holidays and sick leave. The latter was previously only available if contractors lived in a jurisdiction that requires paid time off for illness. In addition, all of the workers will receive a copy of Starfield, the blockbuster game they had worked on. The CWA says it was not standard practice for contractors to get copies of the games they help to ship.

The CWA says the union will keep fighting for more contractors to have a pathway to permanent roles. “We look forward to continued good faith negotiations as we work towards a collective bargaining agreement,” Microsoft vice president Amy Pannoni told Bloomberg.

“We are now stronger at the bargaining table and are working to secure a fair contract for all workers — direct employees and contractors," Chris Lusco, associate QA tester and a member of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA, said in a statement. "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."

Last year, while Microsoft was attempting to win regulatory approval to buy Activision Blizzard, the company said it would remain neutral when the publisher's employees wished to unionize. A pact it reached with the CWA to that effect is set to come into force on December 12, 60 days after the Activision deal closed.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

United Auto Workers seeks to unionize Tesla, BMW and other carmakers

Fresh off successful contract negotiations with Ford, GM and Stellantis, the United Auto Workers (UAW) is seeking to unionize 150,000 workers across 13 automakers including Tesla, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Hyundai, it announced. "To all the autoworkers out there working without the benefits of a union: now it’s your turn," said UAW president Shawn Fain. 

The UAW said the organizing drive covers "more than a dozen" non-union automakers. It notes that many use a mix of full-time, temporary and contract employees "to divide the workforce and depress wages." The union cited one example of a Hyundai assembly plant employee who worked for a subcontractor for eight years starting at $9.25 an hour before finally becoming a full-time Hyundai employee. 

Non-union automakers, including VW, Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and Subaru raised wages after the UAW's negotiations with the big three. VW, for one, bumped them to $23.42 an hour, rising to a maximum of $32.40. However, they "lag far behind UAW autoworkers in wages, benefits and rights on the job," the union said.

The UAW helped workers win a 25 percent raise over four years with the big three automakers, with the highest-paid Ford workers now earning $83,000 per year for a 40-hour work week (around $42 per hour). The union also gained reinstatement of cost-of-living allowances, shorter progression periods to top wages and a quicker conversion of temporary to in-progression (full-time) employees. 

Tesla employees have attempted to unionize the company before, and some alleged that the company fired them for that — though that claim was recently dismissed by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB has previously found that Tesla violated labor law by prohibiting employees from talking about workplace matters. Back in 2022, Elon Musk challenged the UAW to hold a vote at Tesla's California factory.

Other automakers aren't exempt from worker complaints, including startup Rivian. "The company likes to tell us we’re making the plane while flying it, and that explains a lot about the problems we have," said one Rivian chassis worker. "We have all sorts of safety issues. Turnover is terrible. Every group has a story about a new employee who did not make it to first break. The lack of safety, the low pay, the forced overtime, there are so many reasons we need to be union." 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Sega faces unfair labor practice complaint for planned mass layoff of union members

Workers at Sega of America are accusing the video game company of "bad faith bargaining with workers" for its plan to lay off dozens of temporary workers. The publisher known for franchises that include Sonic the Hedgehog and Yakuza is now facing an unfair labor practice complaint filed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). In April, 200 people in various departments across the company overwhelmingly voted in favor of unionization and formed the Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega (AEGIS-CWA) under the CWA. Now, Sega allegedly intends to lay off 80 of those unionized workers.

In its complaint, the CWA explained that it's been in bargaining with Sega since September. On November 6, Sega apparently presented the organization with a proposal to phase out of all its temporary employees by taking their work offshore to the company's offices in Europe and Japan by February 2024. Those temporary employees make up 40 percent of the union's bargaining unit and mostly work in quality assurance and localization, which the group describes as "critical to Sega's success."

The afternoon after their meeting, the CWA said Sega presented its proposal to the affected employees through captive audience meetings. "We believe this is a clear case of bad faith bargaining," the CWA wrote in its complaint, since Sega dealt directly with the union members and "violated status quo" by telling them they're losing their jobs. 

"Sega will not be allowed to get away with this unlawful behavior," Elise Willacker, Senior QA Tester Temp, said in a statement. "We call on the company to make all temporary employees permanent and return to the bargaining table in good faith. There is no other just alternative." As Kotaku notes, the organization's complaint is now in the hands of the National Labor Relations Board, but it may take a while to resolve and may not prevent the layoffs from taking place. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google contract workers accuse Alphabet and Accenture of violating labor laws

Last month, around 80 Google Help subcontractors employed by Accenture — who recently voted to unionize with the Alphabet Workers Union-Communications Workers of America (AWU-CWA) — found out that they will be laid off. Now, the union has filed a complaint against Alphabet and Accenture with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging retaliatory layoffs in violation of labor laws, the AWU-CWA wrote in a press release. 

"When my coworkers and I announced our union with overwhelming support, Google and Accenture management refused to acknowledge us," said general writer at Accenture and Google, Anjail Muhammad, in a statement. "A few short weeks later they announced their response — that they would be laying off dozens of employees. These jobs aren’t going away though, we’re just being asked to train our replacements abroad." 

Alphabet effectively washed its hands of the issue when the layoffs were first announced, saying that "Google does not control [the contractor's] employment terms or working conditions" and that the situation was "a matter between them and their employer, Accenture." It reiterated that position to Fortune, adding that the layoffs were for savings and efficiency and no other reason, and that it "chooses its partners and staffing agencies carefully and reviews their compliance with its Supplier Code of Conduct."

In their original union application, workers listed Google and Accenture as joint employers "due to the direct role both companies play in shaping working conditions," they said in the original unionization announcement. "We had exercised our right to organize as members of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA in order to bring both Google and Accenture, a Google subcontractor, to the bargaining table to negotiate on several key demands, including layoff protections," said senior writer and union member Julia Nagatsu Granstrom back in July. 

The team, which largely works in content creation, will be reduced from 130 people to around 40. They were reportedly instructed to train replacements working from India and the Philippines. Since 2018, the majority of Google employees have been contractors.

In April, YouTube Music contractors voted unanimously to unionize, after winning a landmark legal victory with the NLRB forcing Google to the bargaining table to ratify their union contract. However, Alphabet indicated that it would still not negotiate with workers, saying it doesn't consider them as employees — meaning the issue is likely to wind up in a federal court. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Sega of America workers overwhelmingly vote to unionize

Workers at Sega of America have voted to unionize. In a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board, the workers voted 91-26 in favor of their unit, which is called the Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega (AEGIS-CWA). Nineteen ballots were challenged, while three were void. As a result, the group has now officially organized with the Communication Workers of America

The unit comprises more than 200 workers in various departments across the company, including the brand marketing, games as a service, localization, marketing services, product development, sales and quality assurance teams. While it's hardlythe first games union in North America, the workers say it's "the largest multi-department union of organized workers in the entire gaming industry." However, ZeniMax Workers United/CWA includes around 300 quality assurance workers at ZeniMax Studios.


We just won our union election 91-26.

Our 200+ member union is now the LARGEST multi-department union of organized workers in the ENTIRE gaming industry.

So excited to celebrate this win & head to the bargaining table w/ @SEGA to continue building this company we love!

— AEGIS-CWA 💙 #UnionizeSEGA (@takesAEGIS) July 10, 2023

AEGIS-CWA plans to push for improved base pay and benefits, more staff to "eliminate overwork patterns" and more balanced workloads. The workers are also seeking remote work options, clearly defined responsibilities for each role and more.

Sega declined to voluntarily recognize the union. Management decided to "instead engage with known union-busters in an attempt to spread misinformation, fear and division," Winry Ramsey, a QA tester and AEGIS-CWA member previously said. Sega will now have to agree on a union contract with AEGIS-CWA.

"We are overjoyed to celebrate our union election win as members of AEGIS-CWA. From the start of this campaign, it has been clear that we all care deeply about our work at Sega," Sega translator and AEGIS-CWA member Ángel Gómez said in a statement. "Now, through our union, we’ll be able to protect the parts of our jobs we love, and strengthen the benefits, pay, and job stability available to all workers. Together we can build an even better Sega. We hope our victory today is an inspiration to other workers across the gaming industry. Together, we can raise standards for all workers across the industry.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Apple's union-busting practices violated employee rights at NYC store, judge rules

Apple is once again in trouble for its union-busting practices. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge ruled Apple interfered with employees' organizing efforts at its World Trade Center store in New York City after workers, Bloomberg reported. Managers were found to have taken away pro-union flyers in the break room and attempted to dissuade employees from joining unions, which prosecutors argued had led employees to end the organizing campaign. A judge ordered Apple "cease and desist from coercively interrogating employees regarding their protected concerning activities and Union sympathies." 

The news broke in early 2022 that Apple store workers nationwide were quietly organizing in response to concerns that their wages didn't reflect the rising cost of living. However, Apple soon hired the anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson, which also represents Starbucks and McDonalds, among others. The company also instructed store managers to share anti-union sentiments, such as warning employees that joining a union could bring reduced pay, career opportunities and time off. That May, the Communications Workers of America filed Unfair Labor Practice charges for the Apple stores in the World Trade Center and Atlanta's Cumberland Mall. 

Union efforts are slowly gaining ground at Apple stores across the country. The NLRB previously found Apple had violated federal law in Atlanta, including daily mandatory anti-union meetings for employees and interrogating workers. Last year, employees at an Apple store in Maryland and another in Oklahoma voted to unionize. Yet, other locations like the St. Louis branch abandoned plans to unionize, blaming similar tactics by Apple. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at