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Microsoft videogame testers form company's first U.S. union

A Microsoft logo is pictured on a store in New York

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) -A group of about 300 videogame testers at Microsoft Corp subsidiary Zenimax Studios have voted to unionize, the Communication Workers of America union (CWA) said on Tuesday, marking a first for the tech giant in the United States.

The CWA said Zenimax employees at four locations in Maryland and Texas voted overwhelmingly to join the union, but did not provide a tally. Zenimax owns major game franchises including The Elder Scrolls and Fallout.

Microsoft in a statement provided by a spokesperson said it would follow through on an earlier promise to voluntary recognize the union if the workers voted to join.

“We look forward to engaging in good faith negotiations as we work towards a collective bargaining agreement," the company said.

Voluntarily agreeing to bargain allows Microsoft to avoid a formal election overseen by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board and the legal battles that often ensue.

CWA President Christopher Shelton in a statement said Microsoft has set itself apart from other tech companies that have discouraged union campaigns.

"Microsoft is charting a different course which will strengthen its corporate culture and ability to serve its customers and should serve as a model for the industry and as a blueprint for regulators," Shelton said.

The company in June entered into an agreement with the CWA to remain neutral in union organizing campaigns at Activision Blizzard Inc, which Microsoft is seeking to purchase for $69 billion. U.S. regulators sued to block the deal last month.

Game testers at Activision units Blizzard Albany and Raven Software voted in 2022 to join unions amid claims by the CWA that the company has threatened and retaliated against union supporters. Activision has denied wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)