Employees at Microsoft’s ZeniMax Online Studios have voted to form a union and begin collective bargaining with the tech giant.

The ZeniMax quality assurance workers began organizing months ago and voted to form a union in December. The union is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America and Microsoft has recognized it.

ZeniMax is a video-game production company based in Rockville, with titles such as Elder Scrolls and Fallout.

James Riffle, associate quality assurance tester for Elder Scrolls Online, said the union hopes to address a number of problems.

“A lot of us are overworked and kind of feel like our passion is being used against us,” Riffle explained. “We’ve either seen firsthand or heard stories about working overtime hours and still having to work another job to afford rent or gas. We’ve seen unexplained discrepancies in pay before, between people in the same position. I’ve seen people being forced to do work above their pay grade, without proper compensation.”

It will be Microsoft’s first union negotiation in the United States. The ZeniMax vote follows successful unionization efforts of tech workers at Activision, Alphabet and Apple via the Communications Workers of America’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees.

The ZeniMax union includes all quality assurance workers at the various ZeniMax studio locations in America, including its subsidiaries. While quality assurance workers spend time playing the video games the company produces, Riffle said the job has its challenges.

“While we do love what we do, people don’t know how painstakingly monotonous it can be,” Riffle pointed out. “We can spend hours trying to reproduce an issue that players find in a game with little to no information. So we have what people think is a dream job, but in reality, that dream is manipulated to underpay you.”

The ZeniMax workers are now the largest group of quality assurance testers to win union representation at any U.S. video game studio.


David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...

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