• Brad Smith, Microsoft's president, said that the company wants to collaborate with unions.
  • Microsoft's move contrasts with other tech firms' rejection of unionization efforts.
  • Microsoft is acquiring Activision Blizzard, which now houses the video-game industry's first union.

Microsoft said it would play nice with labor unions, marking a new approach that sets it on a different path from its industry peers.

In a Thursday blog post, the company's president, Brad Smith, said Microsoft recognizes and respects its employees' "legal right to choose whether to form or join a union."

"We are committed to creative and collaborative approaches with unions when employees wish to exercise their rights and Microsoft is presented with a specific unionization proposal," said Smith.

Smith said the Redmond-based company was embarking on this new approach because attitudes toward the nature of work and companies' responsibilities towards workers have changed. 

There's been a strong push for labor rights in America's private sector, and workers have been agitating to organize collectively in recent months. Last year, 68% of Americans said they approve of unions, making it the strongest show of support for the labor movement since 1965, according to a recent Gallup poll.

The wave of support has bolstered workers' efforts to organize.

For instance, Starbucks baristas across the country made plans to join or form unions earlier this year, Insider reported.

Within the tech sector, workers at a warehouse in New York formed Amazon's first union in April. Meanwhile, Apple's retail workers have also been busy organizing this year.

However, tech companies have long resisted unionization efforts.

Amazon reportedly intimidated workers who wanted to organize. It also ran anti-union ads on social media last year. As for Apple, some of its top leaders have urged workers to think about the risks of unionizing. The company also reportedly gave store managers talking points to dismiss workers' push for unions.

Microsoft's surprise proclamation on Thursday about working with unions has set it apart from how other tech companies have responded to their workers' unionization efforts.

Microsoft is acquiring Activision Blizzard, which recently became home to the video-game industry's first union

Microsoft's openness to working with unions was likely to have been influenced by its $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a video-game publisher. The deal is expected to close next year.

A few days after Microsoft's deal was announced, a small group of quality-assurance workers at Activision announced their intent to unionize, according to the group's press release.

Union workers can choose to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) so that their employers are forced to recognize their union. However, the process can sometimes be combative and long-drawn, so some employers choose to voluntarily recognize the unions to avoid that trouble. Activision did not recognize the quality-assurance workers' efforts and the workers filed a petition with the NLRB, Insider reported. 

On May 23, the quality-assurance workers' vote to form a union passed, making it the first labor union in the video-gaming industry, the Guardian reported. Microsoft said it wouldn't obstruct any efforts at unionization, per the article.

With Thursday's blog post, Smith said Microsoft was trying to find a way to engage with unions and avoid having any disputes spilling out into the open, tarnishing the company's image in the process.

"Rather than manage that in a contentious way, we'd rather address those kinds of situations in a constructive and amicable way that lets employees make informed choices and that avoid public disputes that we think can be unconstructive, at least for our company and our culture," Smith said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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