Over 300 Bethesda workers form Microsoft's first union

Custom image of Starfield and Redfall key art
(Image credit: Windows Central / Bethesda Softworks)

What you need to know

  • Back in 2022, over 300 employees at Bethesda Softworks announced they intended to form a union. 
  • Three days into 2023, the union has been successfully formed, with Microsoft keeping its word and voluntarily recognizing the union instead of fighting it. 
  • The workers will now be seeking to negotiate a contract with Microsoft.

Just three days into the new year, there's now a union of workers at Microsoft-owned ZeniMax Media.

Over 300 Bethesda Softworks employees successfully unionized after announcing their plan back in 2022, with the "supermajority" choosing to sign a union card or go through a special terminal set up for the purpose of voting. In a press release (opens in new tab), the Communication Workers of America noted that per its stated principles, Microsoft voluntarily recognized the union.

“Before us is an opportunity to make big changes and bring equity to the video game industry. We want to put an end to sudden periods of crunch, unfair pay, and lack of growth opportunities within the company. Our union will push for truly competitive pay, better communication between management and workers, a clear path for those that want to progress their career, and more,” said Victoria Banos, senior QA audio tester in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

The union includes quality assurance (QA) testers from across the different ZeniMax studios in the U.S, including Arkane Austin, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, and ZeniMax Online Studios, with many working on upcoming Xbox games like Redfall and Starfield. Shortly before the end of the year, Windows Central spoke to one of the organizing workers, who indicated that the group is hopeful for a good contract.

"It's difficult to express in words just how much winning our union matters to us. We've been working so hard to get here that it would be impossible not to be excited. We know this is not the end of our hard work, but reaching this milestone gives us faith that when workers stand together, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to," said Dylan Burton, senior QA tester in Dallas, Texas.

See more

Windows Central's take

The largest union in the gaming industry has just been formed at Microsoft. This is a big step, and it's fair to be hopeful for the future that we'll see even more unions forming, both at Microsoft and elsewhere at publishers in North America. 

This also comes just a few days after the news a third Activision Blizzard studio is unionizing. If successful, and if Microsoft's purchase of Activision Blizzard is finalized, the company will have four different unions at gaming companies it owns. That'll set a huge amount of precedent. 

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.