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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Microsoft runs pro-union ad in push to acquire Activision Blizzard

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Microsoft has taken out a huge advertisement in newspaper The Washington Post advocating for its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, one of only a few major public moves by the company to support its proposed acquisition in the last month. Curiously, the ad is endorsed by both Microsoft and the massive Communications Workers of America union, or CWA, highlighting Microsoft’s past year of public maneuvers in favor of labor rights and the rights of employees to form unions.

It’s a marked alignment, given that Microsoft just worked alongside the CWA to recognize a massive union forming at its Zenimax studio. It’s part of a pattern of Microsoft being very publicly open to union formation—almost as if in direct response to Activision Blizzard’s own behavior.

As spotted and transcribed by The Verge, Microsoft’s ad titled “A New Year Opens New Doors” emphasizes the worker-friendly image Microsoft is very keen to promote: “As we enter a new year, we remain committed to creating the best workplaces we can for people who make a living in the tech sector,” it says. “This is in keeping with new groundbreaking labor neutrality principles that the Communications Workers of America and Microsoft established last year. During 2023, we hope to bring the same agreement and principles to Activision Blizzard, which Microsoft has proposed to acquire.”

Most notably, the last lines of the advertisement say that Microsoft isn’t asking the Federal Trade Commission “to ignore competition concerns. On the contrary, we believe it’s important to explore solutions that protect competition and consumers while also promoting the needs of workers.” A notable 180 from Microsoft criticizing the FTC’s legal basis not long ago.

That last bit is a real plea to the Federal Trade Commission, a regulatory agency granted broad powers by the US Congress to approve or disapprove of corporate acquisitions and mergers. The FTC announced last month that it would sue Microsoft to stop the acquisition. The FTC’s argument was primarily based on the idea that Microsoft could and would withhold games from opponent Sony—giving Microsoft’s treatment of upcoming Bethesda games as an example.

Why a physical ad in The Washington Post? That part’s simple: The FTC is based in Washington, DC, the Post’s hometown. Buying ads to get exposure to regulatory and government employees in the city is a pretty common tactic among government contractors—if you’ve ever been to DC, you’ve seen them. I’ve always found the ones for military contractors particularly surprising.

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