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Microsoft Agrees To Union Neutrality

Microsoft announced a commitment to remain neutral should any of its 100,000 workers unionize. The company's president, Brad Smith, shared the information during a public forum with the AFL-CIO. Video game workers from Microsoft previously unionized early in 2023, and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) entered into a neutrality agreement with Microsoft at that time. CWA is one union under the AFL-CIO umbrella. The new announcement is a broadening of the CWA agreement.

The company and union will collaborate to resolve issues arising from the increased use of artificial intelligence (A.I.) in the workplace. A.I. experts from Microsoft will inform labor leaders and workers on developments, with workers providing input. This input can shape technology development to consider workers' concerns, particularly job elimination. The company and labor union will work together to create policies that prepare workers for jobs using A.I. The AFL-CIO head praised Microsoft for its broad commitment to labor rights and for putting it in writing, calling it "historic."

Given the long Hollywood strike that happened largely because of fears of artificial intelligence, Microsoft's willingness to engage early is a significant contrast. Smith said he could not guarantee artificial intelligence would never displace a job. However, "the key is to try to use it to make jobs better" by eliminating tasks employees see as tedious. Microsoft is OpenAI’s largest investor ­ —OpenAI recently garnered a lot of attention following the firing and re-hiring of its chief executive, Sam Altman. Smith said those events raised questions about how A.I. is governed and made its partnership with the union more relevant.