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December 11, 2023
Microsoft and labor unions forge alliance on AI’s impact on workforce

Microsoft has announced a collaboration with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), representing a significant step in addressing the impact of AI on the workforce. This alliance, comprising 60 labor unions with 12.5 million workers, aims to foster an open dialogue about AI’s role in the labor market, as per reporting by Bloomberg.

Starting in the winter of 2024, Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, will offer formal training sessions to labor leaders and workers, educating them on the workings of AI. This initiative is part of Microsoft’s effort to gather feedback from labor groups, focusing particularly on unions and workers in key sectors.

The partnership is a response to growing concerns that AI could potentially displace workers. Microsoft President Brad Smith acknowledged these concerns, stating, “I can’t sit here and say that AI will never displace a job. I don’t think that would be honest.” He emphasized that AI could streamline or eliminate certain job aspects considered drudgery, enhancing how people work.

The agreement includes a ‘neutrality’ template, simplifying the process for unions to organize at Microsoft. This approach, already in place for the company’s video game workers, could pave the way for broader unionization within Microsoft. Neutrality agreements ensure that companies do not engage in anti-union campaigns in response to workers organizing.

Goals of the Microsoft-labor union alliance

The alliance aims to share in-depth information on AI technology trends with labor leaders and workers, incorporate worker perspectives in AI development, and shape public policy supporting frontline workers’ technology skills and needs. AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler hailed the collaboration as “groundbreaking” and “historic,” recognizing the vital role workers play in AI technology’s development, deployment, and regulation.

In a related move, Microsoft has agreed to include AI usage guidelines in its contract with ZeniMax’s video game studio staff. This tentative agreement, part of negotiations with the Communications Workers of America, marks Microsoft’s first U.S. collective bargaining. The contract will adhere to Microsoft’s six AI principles, ensuring fair treatment of all people and empowering employees to achieve greater productivity and satisfaction.

The post Microsoft and labor unions forge alliance on AI’s impact on workforce appeared first on ReadWrite.


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