Major U.S. tech union condemns the FTC for blocking Xbox's Activision deal

Blizzard Entertainment HQ picture
(Image credit: Carli Velocci / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • The FTC is suing to block Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
  • The Communication Workers of America have published a statement condemning the FTC for the move.
  • The union argues that the FTC "missed an opportunity" to support labor movements and that the FTC's arguments are "not likely to convince a federal judge."
  • The deal will now be argued for in court at some point in the future.

Update: 12:40 p.m. ET

The European Commission claims that the FTC is inaccurate and that Microsoft did not break any promises regarding ZeniMax games being exclusive.
Original story:

While Microsoft's planned $69 billion purchase is hitting regulatory speedbumps, one of the company's allies is continuing to argue in its defense.

The Communication Workers of America (FTC), the largest union in the U.S, is condemning the FTC for suing to block Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard. In a recent statement (opens in new tab), the CWA argues that the FTC "...has missed an opportunity to demonstrate that it takes the labor impact of mergers seriously," adding that "Instead, the FTC has once again focused its analysis solely on consumer harms and, in this case, console-market leader Sony’s concerns about increased competition."

After initially asking for Microsoft's buyout of Activision Blizzard to be scrutinized, the CWA struck a deal with Microsoft earlier in the year. The deal saw Microsoft commit to remaining neutral in any unionization efforts undertaken by Activision Blizzard employees starting 60 days after the merger closed. Quality Assurance (QA) workers at Activision Blizzard-owned Raven Software and Blizzard Albany have voted to unionize, movements which Activision Blizzard reportedly tried to suppress.  

Following this, over 300 ZeniMax QA employees across various Bethesda Softworks studios began to unionize, including employees working on the upcoming Xbox Series X|S and Windows PC titles, Redfall and Starfield

QA employees at Arkane Austin working on the upcoming Redfall are some of those unionizing. (Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Despite not including Bethesda Softworks in the written deal, Microsoft is remaining neutral, speeding the unionization effort along, with a vote set to finish by the end of the month. This earned the company the praise of the CWA, which then argued that the FTC should allow the purchase to proceed unimpeded.

"Approving this merger with the labor agreement that we fashioned with Microsoft to protect collective bargaining rights would have sent a game-changing message to corporate America that workers do indeed have a seat at the table and their concerns matter and must be addressed," the CWA says. 

"We believe the FTC’s case is not likely to convince a federal judge, particularly as the European Commission may move to approve the deal, and that workers at Activision Blizzard will finally have the opportunity to improve their wages, benefits and working conditions through their union."

While the FTC has sued to block the deal, other regulatory bodies are still outstanding. Microsoft has received approvals in a handful of countries including Brazil, while the European Commission in the E.U. and the CMA in the U.K. have yet to make a decision.

Update

In a statement to Mlex (as shared by ResetEra (opens in new tab) user Idas) the European Commission has denied the FTC's accusations that Microsoft lied about the nature of exclusivity for ZeniMax titles.

"The commission cleared the Microsoft/ZeniMax transaction unconditionally as it concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns," the European Comission said, adding that the decision "did not rely on any statements made by Microsoft about the future distribution strategy concerning ZeniMax's games."

In the FTC's press release announcing the lawsuit to block Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard, the regulator cited the exclusivity of Starfield and Redfall as reasons Microsoft could not be trusted.

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.