Bethesda Softworks employees begin unionization efforts under Microsoft

Starfield and Redfall key art together
(Image credit: Windows Central / Xbox Game Studios / Bethesda Softworks)

What you need to know

  • 300 employees under Bethesda Softworks, which is part of the Xbox first-party group, are beginning unionization efforts. 
  • The vote is set to be finished by the end of the month, and is being overseen by the Communication Workers of America.
  • Microsoft previously signed an agreement with the Communication Workers of America, promising to remain neutral in unionization efforts across Activision Blizzard. 
  • Microsoft is in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard for almost $69 billion.

While Microsoft previously promised it would allow unionization efforts to go forward, that promise is bearing some early fruit.

According to a report from The New York Times (opens in new tab), over 300 employees across ZeniMax Media (the parent company of Bethesda Softworks) are beginning to weigh forming a union. Employees across quality assurance (QA) in teams like Bethesda Games Studios are being allowed to sign a union authorization card or provide anonymous feedback for or against unionizing. 

The report indicates that this unionization effort is much faster than the normal process, with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) providing oversight. If successful, this would be the biggest video game union and the first under Microsoft.

Microsoft, which acquired ZeniMax Media in 2021 for $7.5 billion and added Bethesda Softworks to the Xbox first-party group, is promising to stay neutral during the unionization efforts.

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"It’s been an incredible weight lifted off our shoulders,” said Autumn Mitchell, a QA employee working on the upcoming science-fiction role-playing game Starfield. Employees told The New York Times they have not been targeted for beginning the unionization efforts.

A Microsoft spokeswoman told The New York Times that this unionization effort is “an example of our labor principles in action” and that Microsoft is “committed to providing employees with an opportunity to freely and fairly make choices about their workplace representation.”

Microsoft is currently in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard for almost $69 billion. As part of the deal, Microsoft signed an agreement with the CWA promising to remain neutral in the unionization efforts of Activision Blizzard employees. The CWA has in turn spoken out in favor of Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard. Two unions have been formed at Activision Blizzard already, with QA workers organizing at Raven Software and Blizzard's Albany studio.

Samuel Tolbert

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.