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CWA Supports Microsoft's Purchase of Activision Blizzard

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Media labor union the Communications Workers of America (CWA) has informed the Federal Trade Commission it would support Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, reversing its previous position.

In March, the CWA called on the FTC to "closely scrutinize" the deal, saying it could lead to an "undue concentration of market power." That would in turn "exacerbate worker disempowerment and wage suppression," and make organizing the workplace more difficult.

But the group changed its tune after it entered into a labor neutrality agreement with Microsoft earlier this month. That agreement ensured Microsoft wouldn't interfere with organizing efforts at Activision Blizzard, and would voluntarily recognize any unions formed, starting 60 days from the closing of the $68.7 billion acquisition.

"We now support approval of the transaction before you because Microsoft has entered an agreement with CWA to ensure the workers of Activision Blizzard have a clear path to collective bargaining," wrote CWA president Christopher Shelton.

"Microsoft's binding commitments will give employees a seat at the table and ensure that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard benefits the company's workers and the broader video game labor market."

Shelton's letter says the agreement will protect Activision Blizzard employees from the kind of union busting the company attempted when the CWA helped quality assurance testers at Raven Software unionize as the Game Workers Alliance.

"Workers who seek to form unions in the United States today face severe barriers to exercising basic rights of freedom of association, with frequent firings of union supporters well-documented but not discouraged through any meaningful consequences," Shelton writes.

"When quality assurance testers at Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven studio sought to form a union and requested voluntary recognition, management refused and instead attempted to stymie workers’ ability to achieve certification of their union with multiple aggressive tactics now under investigation by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRB).

"The Raven QA workers persevered and now they are headed to the bargaining table where they have the ability to exchange proposals, discuss market conditions, and share first-hand experiences between workers and management. The outcome will be a better workplace that can lead the industry in high-road practices that incorporate worker voice."

The FTC is still in the process of reviewing Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and several U.S. senators have urged the regulatory body to closely scrutinize the deal. The CWA's support of the acquisition makes it much more likely to close as planned.