Microsoft lays out four core company principles around employee unionization efforts in the tech industry

Arif Bacchus

Microsoft’s President & Vice Chair Brad Smith has responded to recent unionization campaigns across the country, particularly in the technology industry. In a blog post, Smith laid out four core company principles for unionization and other employee concerns around the topic.

In coming to this decision, Smith says Microsoft has two factors in mind. First, he notes Microsoft “has a lot to learn” and believes “other industries have vastly more experience and knowledge than we do.” In this, Microsoft talked with labor, businesses, and other leaders.

In the second part, Microsoft acknowledged that its approach to these issues is different from what might be best for others. Microsoft’s approach depends on “shared company culture that is grounded in a growth mindset focused on listening, learning, and evolving our approaches together,” per Smith.

The most important thing to note from Smith’s blog post is that Microsoft’s leaders have an open-door policy, and knows that there is some time when some employees in some countries may wish to form or join a union. Also important, is that Microsoft respects the right to make a union, saying that it does not believe that “employees or the company’s other stakeholders benefit by resisting lawful employee efforts to participate in protected activities, including forming or joining a union.”

All that said, Microsoft’s big four principles include the following (we already addressed the first two parts above.)

  • We believe in the importance of listening to our employees’ concerns.
  • We recognize that employees have a legal right to choose whether to form or join a union.
  • We are committed to creative and collaborative approaches with unions when employees wish to exercise their rights and Microsoft is presented with a specific unionization proposal.
  • Building on our global labor experiences, we are dedicated to maintaining a close relationship and shared partnership with all our employees, including those represented by a union.

In relation to the second two bullet points, Microsoft mentions that it will also have to make simpler, and not more difficult, approaches for employees to make informed decisions and choosing to form a union or join one or not. Capping things out is Microsoft’s mention that it is committed to learning and adapting to the changing labor relations field.

Per Brad Smith:

“We acknowledge that this is a journey, and we will need to continue to learn and change as employee expectations and views change with the world around us. And we recognize that employers and employees will not always agree on all topics – and that is okay. Perhaps as much as anything, we bring a sense of optimism grounded in an appreciation that success in a competitive global economy requires that businesses and labor strive to work together well.”

Microsoft’s reaction and principles come after a group of employees who work at Activision oped to unionize. Microsoft said it won’t stand in the way of the union, despite the company’s acquisition of Activision not yet going through. Warehouse employees at Amazon also wanted to unionize but lost the vote. Amazon has been accused of threatening those who voted yes.