The union organising Activision told the EU that life would be much better under Microsoft

(Image credit: Bloomberg (Getty Images))

Microsoft is at a closed hearing with European Union regulators today, where it's once again trying to convince Brussels that its purchase of Activision Blizzard is an excellent idea that will only help gamers and the games industry. But it's not just Microsoft's pleas that the EU will have to hear out: The Communication Workers of America (CWA) has written to EU regulators (via, asking them to please, please let Microsoft's $69 billion acquisition go ahead.

The CWA's letter says it wasn't always gung-ho about the acquisition. In fact, when it was first announced, the union had "concerns about the potential for increased employer power over workers that could worsen labor monopsony" (a monopsony is essentially a monopoly's mirror image: a market situation in which something has only one buyer), but a subsequent "dialogue with Microsoft" allowed both sides to reach a neutrality agreement that ensured "the workers of Activision Blizzard have a clear path to collective bargaining if the merger is completed".

The CWA contrasts the ease of that process against the difficulties it's faced unionising workers at Activision in its current form. The union says it has faced "management intransigence at every turn" in its quest to organise Activision's current employees, reminding EU regulators of the US National Labor Relations Board's allegations that "Activision executives have prohibited employees from communicating about ongoing investigations of sexual harassment and working conditions".

It's not the first time the CWA, which says it represents around 700,000 members, has intervened on behalf of Microsoft in the ongoing fracas over its purchase of Activision, but on previous occasions, it's been writing to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), rather than regulators abroad. 

Its argument to the EU is much the same as its one to the FTC: Microsoft owning Activision will be good for workers and thus good for the labour market, which isn't a market that gets discussed a lot when regulators look at deals like this one. Indeed, most of the conversation around the Activision deal by national regulators has centred around its impact on consumers, not workers. The CWA is trying to address that, telling regulators that "Collective bargaining is an effective counterbalance to employer power over the labor market".

I don't know how much stock the EU will put in the testimony of an American labour union—its job, after all, is to care about the European market, not America's—but it's interesting to see the rather bizarre constellation of alliances that Microsoft's acquisition has bred. A major American union throwing its weight behind one of the world's biggest tech companies probably wasn't on anyone's bingo cards a few years ago, but it sounds like the CWA has gotten so sick of Activision's current management that it's eager for an alternative.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.