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Microsoft says it’ll maintain neutrality in US unionization efforts

Microsoft logo at the company office building located in Munich, Germany

Microsoft has publicly committed to remain neutral if any of its US staff want to unionize.  

Approximately 100,000 workers would be eligible to unionize under the framework.

President Brad Smith and A.F.L.-C.I.O. President Liz Shuler announced the stance at the labor federation’s Washington headquarters.

Read More: UK regulators could examine Microsoft investment in OpenAI 

This commitment expands upon the neutrality agreement between Microsoft and the Communications Workers of America.

Hundreds of the company’s video game workers unionized earlier this year, bypassing a formal National Labor Relations Board election.

Microsoft and the A.F.L.-C.I.O. are collaboratively addressing concerns about adopting artificial intelligence in the workplace. 

This initiative involves Microsoft's AI experts briefing labor leaders and workers on industry developments.

They want input to mitigate concerns like job elimination risks and collectively work on policies to prepare workers for AI-integrated roles.

Read More: New OpenAI Board Takes Charge, Giving Microsoft Observer Role

"It's historic"

Ms. Shuler said: “Never before in the history of these American tech giants, dating back 50 years or so ago, has one of these companies made a broad commitment to labor rights.

“It is historic. Not only have they made a commitment, they formalized it and put it in writing.”

The announcement comes amid growing worker concerns about AI's impact on jobs.

They highlight recent strikes in sectors like Hollywood, where AI-related anxieties were cited. 

Microsoft's AI initiative aims to incorporate workers into the development process, addressing fears of job displacement by leveraging AI to enhance tasks considered tedious.

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The unveiling of the AI initiative coincides with recent controversies at OpenAI, where Microsoft is a major investor. 

Despite questions about AI governance arising from the OpenAI incident, Microsoft said the labor initiative had been in progress for months, independently of those developments.

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