Tech

Microsoft and CWA Union reach AI agreement

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Microsoft has entered an agreement with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union regarding contractual terms focused on applying artificial intelligence (AI) within the company. This deal marks the first instance of collective bargaining in Microsoft’s US history. It is expected to allow employees to participate in discussions about deploying AI technology. The contract affects several hundred workers at Microsoft’s ZeniMax game studio, which includes popular subsidiaries like Bethesda and Arkane.

As part of the agreement, employees will have a voice in how AI integrates into their workflow. By doing so, ethical considerations are taken into account, ensuring that the technology complements human tasks without completely replacing them. In addition, the deal aims to provide workers with enough consultation, training, and support to help them adjust to the evolving technological landscape in the gaming industry.

Contractual language and AI principles

The contract language is rooted in Microsoft’s previously declared AI principles, stating that AI systems should “treat all people fairly” and “empower everyone.” This arrangement will allow the affected employees to address grievances if they believe Microsoft is not complying with these principles. In a gesture of goodwill, Microsoft has converted numerous ZeniMax contract workers to full-time employees, demonstrating its commitment to prioritizing worker well-being and job security.

Per the contract, Microsoft must alert the CWA when AI or automation technology is introduced in a way that might impact workers. If necessary, the company must engage in earnest negotiations about the change. This deal overlaps Microsoft’s significant progress in the AI domain through its collaboration with OpenAI products. By maintaining open communication with CWA, the company ensures that workforce adjustments are conducted fairly and transparently.

Partnership with AFL-CIO and fostering cooperation

Microsoft has also partnered with the largest US union federation, the AFL-CIO, in a further act of support towards its labor force. This alliance guarantees Microsoft’s impartiality in union initiatives, encouraging employees to join while promoting an “open dialogue” about AI and its implications for the workforce. Through this partnership, Microsoft seeks to create a collaborative environment that acknowledges workers’ concerns and actively involves them in discussions and decision-making processes.

The AFL-CIO has described the cooperation as the “first of its kind between a labor organization and a technology company.” In this collaboration, Microsoft vows to share information about significant AI trends with labor leaders and consider workers’ perspectives while developing new technologies. This groundbreaking partnership aims to promote transparency and prioritize the interests of the workforce while navigating advancements in AI.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Salvatore De Lellis; Pexels

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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