ZeniMax Studios QA workers officially form union

ZeniMax Workers United is now officially the first union under Microsoft.
elder scrolls 6 full development

Around 300 quality assurance workers at ZeniMax Studios (The Elder Scrolls Online) have voted to form an official union – the first recognised group under Microsoft. The process to form ZeniMax Workers United is currently underway with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which recently aided employees at Raven Software and Blizzard Albany in similar circumstances. Microsoft is currently in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard, which encompasses those two unions

‘Today we, a majority of QA workers at ZeniMax, are proud to announce the launch of our union with [CWA],’ the ZeniMax Workers United Twitter account revealed. ‘We are the first group of workers at Microsoft to formally unionise. We are empowered to advocate for ourselves and build a future where we can thrive alongside the company.’

‘QA workers at ZeniMax are extremely passionate about our work and the games we make. Having a seat at the table will ensure we receive fair compensation for the work that we do. A union on the job will protect us and make sure our passion isn’t taken for granted.’

The group will now enter contract negotiations with Microsoft, with hopes to secure the following:

  • Fair treatment for all individuals, and wages in line with the work provided
  • Opportunities for advancement within ZeniMax
  • Accountability and transparency
  • A voice in decision making around scheduling and workload

QA workers at the company are currently spread across a range of projects, including new content for The Elder Scrolls Online, as well as work on upcoming blockbusters like Starfield and Redfall. They’re essential for the quality of these projects – which puts them in a good position to leverage better conditions for the future.

In recent years, several stories have emerged about the poor treatment of QA workers, with ZeniMax allegedly being part of the problem. A report in June 2022 alleged workers on Fallout 76 were offered bonus pay and ‘free pizza’ for overtime and weekend hours, but were also forced to work long, harsh hours that ‘destroyed people’.

Read: Fallout 76 developers say studio crunch and mismanagement ‘destroyed people’

There’s hope the efforts of the union will right the ship, and allow QA workers to achieve the respect and compensation they deserve for their effort and talent.

For its part in the negotiations, Microsoft has been praised for remaining neutral as workers organised under their own steam. The company pledged to allow workers to self-determine in early 2022, amidst union formations at Activision Blizzard and subsequent pushback against these attempts.

‘We applaud Microsoft for remaining neutral through this process and letting workers decide for themselves whether they want a union,’ Christopher Shelton, CWA president said in a press release. ‘The company is fulfilling the commitments they laid out in their labour principals earlier this year, while sending a resounding message to the video game industry: the right to freely and fairly make a choice about union representation should be in the hands of the workers, not management.’

Going forward, the workers of ZeniMax will gain more bargaining power, and hopefully drive changes to working conditions at the company.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.