ZeniMax QA Workers Are Creating Microsoft's First Union

QA workers at Bethesda's parent company ZeniMax are forming a union, and it'll be the first formal union organized at Microsoft.


Published: December 6, 2022 8:39 AM /

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A futuristic cityscape in the ZeniMax title Starfield

ZeniMax QA workers have announced they will form Microsoft's first formal union. The new union will be called ZeniMax Workers United and will be formed in conjunction with the Communications Workers of America Union, marking the latest in a string of gaming unionizations in recent months.

This new ZeniMax union announced its formation via Twitter yesterday. In the tweet thread, ZeniMax Workers United (ZWU) says it wants to "build a future where we can thrive alongside the company". The union goes on to say it wants all workers to "collectively participate in decision making" and push for changes that reflect workers' needs.

Specifically, ZWU says it has four main aims. First, it wants fair treatment for individuals and wages "commensurate with the value we provide". The union is also pushing for advancement opportunities within ZeniMax, as well as accountability and transparency on a corporate level. Finally, the union wants a voice when it comes to workload, scheduling, and other major decisions.

A player looking out at a field of dinosaurs in Starfield, a ZeniMax game
ZeniMax's subsidiary Bethesda is currently gearing up for the release of next year's sci-fi RPG Starfield.

According to ZWU, Microsoft has "remained committed to staying neutral" throughout the union's formation process. Earlier this year, Microsoft stated that it was not opposed to workers forming unions, saying that it respected workers' right to form unions and that it doesn't believe employees or stakeholders benefit from "resisting lawful employee efforts" to do so.

This news comes after Blizzard Albany QA workers voted to unionize last week, after a protracted process that saw Activision Blizzard attempting to interfere with unionization (and the NLRB subsequently telling the company it couldn't do so). ZeniMax's union is the latest in a line of QA unionizations that also includes Call of Duty developer Raven Software and contracting studio Keywords Studios, which has worked with BioWare.

It's no accident that these unions largely consist of QA workers. For a long time, QA (which, in case you didn't know, stands for "quality assurance") personnel have complained of long hours, low pay, and poor treatment by management.

This isn't limited to US companies, either; earlier this year, a report emerged about British publisher Team17, accusing the studio of low pay for its QA testers and poor treatment for its employees in general. Gaming giant Nintendo has also been accused of union-busting activity on at least two separate occasions.

Unlike Activision Blizzard, it seems unlikely that Microsoft will attempt to interfere in ZeniMax's unionization efforts to any degree, but we'll have to wait and see what happens next. One thing, though, is for sure: the buzz surrounding gaming unions is likely to get louder, not quieter, as time goes on. Stay tuned to TechRaptor for more info about this.

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Joe has been writing for TechRaptor for several years, and in those years has learned a lot about the gaming industry and its foibles. He’s originally an… More about Joseph