Sega of America plans to lay off 61 workers

Sega of America plans to lay off 61 employees in March, according to a California WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) report. Eurogamer and X user @WhatLayoff first reported on the government notice, which lists two separate job cuts classified as “layoff permanent” on March 8. It’s the latest chapter in a year-plus of brutal job cuts in the tech and gaming worlds.

California’s WARN Act, passed in 1988, requires employers to provide 60 days’ notice for upcoming layoffs — allowing the affected workers time to prepare. It applies to companies with at least 75 full-time or part-time workers and covers layoffs of 50 or more people within 30 days. It isn’t clear precisely how many workers Sega of America employs.

The WARN report lists separate layoffs (one of 12 and another of 49 workers) at two Irvine, CA-based Sega of America offices. The job cuts both have a “notice” date of January 8, and the reports were “processed” by California on January 29 with “effective” dates of March 8.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Sega in November after the publisher allegedly said it would lay off 80 unionized workers. At the time, the organization said Sega presented the proposal in a captive audience meeting, describing the circumstances as “a clear case of bad faith bargaining.”

The Allied Employees Guild Improving SEGA (AEGIS-CWA), the union representing Sega workers in the US, wrote on X Tuesday that the company announced the latest plans “a few months ago,” suggesting the layoffs posted in the WARN notice are part of the same roadmap. The union said Sega plans to outsource quality assurance and some localization work “in a move that would significantly impact our workforce.”

Sega hasn’t publicly confirmed the layoffs. Engadget reached out to a company representative, and we’ll update this article if we hear back.

The layoffs come less than two months after Sega said it would refresh its classics Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Shinobi, Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. Eurogamer notes the company’s Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, which launched last week, has been a high mark for the publisher.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sega-of-america-plans-to-lay-off-61-workers-180100573.html?src=rss

NLRB finds that eBay and subsidiary TCGPlayer engaged in union-busting practices

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that eBay has violated the rights of unionized workers at TCGPlayer, a trading card marketplace owned by the company. This comes in response to charges filed by the Communications Workers of America back in March of this year. eBay has allegedly refused to recognize TCGPlayer’s worker union and it delayed participating in any bargaining practices and it has also refused to divulge any information with the group that the union is legally entitled to.

As part of its examination of the issue, the NLRB said that because eBay and TCGPlayer broke the law, the company must face legal consequences for its union-busting practices. The union, which officially formed in March following numerous anti-union actions from eBay and TCGPlayer, was denied representation during disciplinary investigations. The NLRB also found that eBay was changing working conditions and benefits without engaging in bargaining with the group. On top of that, eBay is said to have even enforced rules that would punish any workers’ elections to unionize.

While the NLRB lays out evidence of eBay’s union-busting practices, it did not officially issue a decision on the matter. The agency is still waiting on the company’s response to the issue. “Now that the board has come to a decision on eBay’s illegal practices, we hope the company will see the light, obey labor law and engage in good faith bargaining practices so that workers can secure a strong union contract,” Dennis Trainor, Communications Workers of America District 1 Vice-President, said in a statement. eBay could not be reached for comment.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nlrb-finds-that-ebay-and-subsidiary-tcgplayer-engaged-in-union-busting-practices-205337429.html?src=rss

Microsoft agrees to union contract terms involving the use of AI

Microsoft has agreed to union contract language regarding its use of artificial intelligence, which should give workers a voice when challenging how the technology’s deployed, as reported by Bloomberg. This is the first US instance of collective bargaining in Microsoft’s history and could be a huge step for those employed with the tech giant.

This came to pass as part of negotiations with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union and involves contract language that covers a few hundred staffers at Microsoft’s game studio ZeniMax, which includes well-known subsidiaries like Bethesda and Arkane, among others.

The gist here is that the contract language incorporates Microsoft’s previously-announced AI principles, sort of a ten commandments type deal. The language dictates that AI systems will “treat all people fairly” and “empower everyone.” To that end, it will give employees covered under the contract an avenue of recourse should they feel that Microsoft isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Microsoft even hired dozens of ZeniMax contract workers as full-time employees, potentially as a show of good faith.

“The goal is to ensure tools and technologies benefit rather than harm workers,” the contract states. The language stipulates that Microsoft must inform the CWA whenever AI or related automation technology is implemented in a way that could impact workers. If requested, the company must enter into good-faith negotiations regarding the change. This is a big first step, considering Microsoft’s massive play into the AI space via integration with OpenAI products.

This would be news on its own, given Microsoft’s former hesitance to engage with unions in any way, shape or form. However, there’s more. The company also entered into a partnership with the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest federation of unions. The entities struck a deal that ensures Microsoft will remain neutral in efforts by unions to encourage workers to join up.

The partnership also creates an “open dialogue” to discuss AI and how it impacts workers. The AFL-CIO calls this team-up the “first of its kind between a labor organization and a technology company.” Microsoft has committed to share information with labor leaders regarding impactful AI trends and consider “worker perspectives” when developing new technologies.

Why the about face? There’s a whole lot of uncertainty out there regarding artificial intelligence and how it will impact workers across multiple industries. It looks like Microsoft is setting itself up to be the “adult in the room” when compared to rival entities. It’s worth noting, though, that Microsoft shareholders rejected a proposal last week that would slow down AI spending until a risk-assessment project could be conducted.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-agrees-to-union-contract-terms-involving-the-use-of-ai-173354643.html?src=rss

Microsoft agrees to union contract terms involving the use of AI

Microsoft has agreed to union contract language regarding its use of artificial intelligence, which should give workers a voice when challenging how the technology’s deployed, as reported by Bloomberg. This is the first US instance of collective bargaining in Microsoft’s history and could be a huge step for those employed with the tech giant.

This came to pass as part of negotiations with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union and involves contract language that covers a few hundred staffers at Microsoft’s game studio ZeniMax, which includes well-known subsidiaries like Bethesda and Arkane, among others.

The gist here is that the contract language incorporates Microsoft’s previously-announced AI principles, sort of a ten commandments type deal. The language dictates that AI systems will “treat all people fairly” and “empower everyone.” To that end, it will give employees covered under the contract an avenue of recourse should they feel that Microsoft isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Microsoft even hired dozens of ZeniMax contract workers as full-time employees, potentially as a show of good faith.

“The goal is to ensure tools and technologies benefit rather than harm workers,” the contract states. The language stipulates that Microsoft must inform the CWA whenever AI or related automation technology is implemented in a way that could impact workers. If requested, the company must enter into good-faith negotiations regarding the change. This is a big first step, considering Microsoft’s massive play into the AI space via integration with OpenAI products.

This would be news on its own, given Microsoft’s former hesitance to engage with unions in any way, shape or form. However, there’s more. The company also entered into a partnership with the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest federation of unions. The entities struck a deal that ensures Microsoft will remain neutral in efforts by unions to encourage workers to join up.

The partnership also creates an “open dialogue” to discuss AI and how it impacts workers. The AFL-CIO calls this team-up the “first of its kind between a labor organization and a technology company.” Microsoft has committed to share information with labor leaders regarding impactful AI trends and consider “worker perspectives” when developing new technologies.

Why the about face? There’s a whole lot of uncertainty out there regarding artificial intelligence and how it will impact workers across multiple industries. It looks like Microsoft is setting itself up to be the “adult in the room” when compared to rival entities. It’s worth noting, though, that Microsoft shareholders rejected a proposal last week that would slow down AI spending until a risk-assessment project could be conducted.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-agrees-to-union-contract-terms-involving-the-use-of-ai-173354643.html?src=rss

Microsoft is hiring dozens of ZeniMax QA contractors as unionized employees

Game studios and publishers have collectively laid off an estimated 9,000-plus workers this year. Microsoft (which itself has laid off workers from Xbox teams in 2023) is bucking the trend to a certain extent by hiring dozens of ZeniMax quality assurance contractors as unionized employees.

The company agreed at the beginning of this year to formally recognize a union representing around 300 QA workers at ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda that Microsoft bought in 2021. As part of bargaining talks that have been ongoing since April, Microsoft has agreed to hire 77 temporary workers and incorporate them into the ZeniMax Workers United-CWA (Communications Workers of America) union.

Microsoft is hiring 23 of the workers as full-time, permanent employees with a pay increase of 22.2 percent. The other 54 workers are getting an immediate pay bump from $18 per hour to $20.75 an hour. Once the collective bargaining agreement is ratified, Microsoft will hire those workers as temporary employees.

According to the CWA, the new employees will now receive paid holidays and sick leave. The latter was previously only available if contractors lived in a jurisdiction that requires paid time off for illness. In addition, all of the workers will receive a copy of Starfield, the blockbuster game they had worked on. The CWA says it was not standard practice for contractors to get copies of the games they help to ship.

The CWA says the union will keep fighting for more contractors to have a pathway to permanent roles. “We look forward to continued good faith negotiations as we work towards a collective bargaining agreement,” Microsoft vice president Amy Pannoni told Bloomberg.

“We are now stronger at the bargaining table and are working to secure a fair contract for all workers — direct employees and contractors," Chris Lusco, associate QA tester and a member of ZeniMax Workers United-CWA, said in a statement. "We are all a part of ZeniMax Studio’s success and we all deserve our fair share. We hope to set a new precedent for workers across Microsoft and the entire gaming industry so that all workers, regardless of their employment status, are able to improve their working conditions through collective bargaining."

Last year, while Microsoft was attempting to win regulatory approval to buy Activision Blizzard, the company said it would remain neutral when the publisher's employees wished to unionize. A pact it reached with the CWA to that effect is set to come into force on December 12, 60 days after the Activision deal closed.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-is-hiring-dozens-of-zenimax-qa-contractors-as-unionized-employees-180047283.html?src=rss

United Auto Workers seeks to unionize Tesla, BMW and other carmakers

Fresh off successful contract negotiations with Ford, GM and Stellantis, the United Auto Workers (UAW) is seeking to unionize 150,000 workers across 13 automakers including Tesla, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Hyundai, it announced. "To all the autoworkers out there working without the benefits of a union: now it’s your turn," said UAW president Shawn Fain. 

The UAW said the organizing drive covers "more than a dozen" non-union automakers. It notes that many use a mix of full-time, temporary and contract employees "to divide the workforce and depress wages." The union cited one example of a Hyundai assembly plant employee who worked for a subcontractor for eight years starting at $9.25 an hour before finally becoming a full-time Hyundai employee. 

Non-union automakers, including VW, Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and Subaru raised wages after the UAW's negotiations with the big three. VW, for one, bumped them to $23.42 an hour, rising to a maximum of $32.40. However, they "lag far behind UAW autoworkers in wages, benefits and rights on the job," the union said.

The UAW helped workers win a 25 percent raise over four years with the big three automakers, with the highest-paid Ford workers now earning $83,000 per year for a 40-hour work week (around $42 per hour). The union also gained reinstatement of cost-of-living allowances, shorter progression periods to top wages and a quicker conversion of temporary to in-progression (full-time) employees. 

Tesla employees have attempted to unionize the company before, and some alleged that the company fired them for that — though that claim was recently dismissed by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB has previously found that Tesla violated labor law by prohibiting employees from talking about workplace matters. Back in 2022, Elon Musk challenged the UAW to hold a vote at Tesla's California factory.

Other automakers aren't exempt from worker complaints, including startup Rivian. "The company likes to tell us we’re making the plane while flying it, and that explains a lot about the problems we have," said one Rivian chassis worker. "We have all sorts of safety issues. Turnover is terrible. Every group has a story about a new employee who did not make it to first break. The lack of safety, the low pay, the forced overtime, there are so many reasons we need to be union." 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/united-auto-workers-seeks-to-unionize-tesla-bmw-and-other-carmakers-100555374.html?src=rss

Sega faces unfair labor practice complaint for planned mass layoff of union members

Workers at Sega of America are accusing the video game company of "bad faith bargaining with workers" for its plan to lay off dozens of temporary workers. The publisher known for franchises that include Sonic the Hedgehog and Yakuza is now facing an unfair labor practice complaint filed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). In April, 200 people in various departments across the company overwhelmingly voted in favor of unionization and formed the Allied Employees Guild Improving Sega (AEGIS-CWA) under the CWA. Now, Sega allegedly intends to lay off 80 of those unionized workers.

In its complaint, the CWA explained that it's been in bargaining with Sega since September. On November 6, Sega apparently presented the organization with a proposal to phase out of all its temporary employees by taking their work offshore to the company's offices in Europe and Japan by February 2024. Those temporary employees make up 40 percent of the union's bargaining unit and mostly work in quality assurance and localization, which the group describes as "critical to Sega's success."

The afternoon after their meeting, the CWA said Sega presented its proposal to the affected employees through captive audience meetings. "We believe this is a clear case of bad faith bargaining," the CWA wrote in its complaint, since Sega dealt directly with the union members and "violated status quo" by telling them they're losing their jobs. 

"Sega will not be allowed to get away with this unlawful behavior," Elise Willacker, Senior QA Tester Temp, said in a statement. "We call on the company to make all temporary employees permanent and return to the bargaining table in good faith. There is no other just alternative." As Kotaku notes, the organization's complaint is now in the hands of the National Labor Relations Board, but it may take a while to resolve and may not prevent the layoffs from taking place. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sega-faces-unfair-labor-practice-complaint-for-planned-mass-layoff-of-union-members-073046095.html?src=rss

Ford reaches a tentative agreement with striking auto workers

Ford has called its 20,000 employees back to work now that it has reached a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers (UAW). The two parties have agreed on a new four-year labor contract that include a 25 percent pay increase for employees over that period, according to Reuters and The New York Times. With the cost-of-living wage adjustments the union has also successfully negotiated, the total pay hikes would amount to 33 percent, the UAW said. In addition to a wage hike, the contract also has stipulations for higher pensions and the right to strike over company plans to close factories. 

Based on those rates, the highest-paid employees at Ford will ultimately be earning more than $40 an hour, up from $32, and have a base pay of $83,000 for a 40-hour-a-week workload. Meanwhile, recent hires will see their pay double over the next four years. As The Times notes, Ford initially offered to pay its workers 23 percent more, telling the union that it's what the company could afford without making big changes to its business. However, the UAW pushed for a bigger percentage and managed to reach this agreement with Ford by having thousands of its workers walk out over the past few weeks. 

Approximately 8,700 personnel at the company's largest truck plant in Kentucky had stopped working, along with another 10,000 in Illinois and Michigan. Around two weeks after the strikes began, Ford suspended the construction of a Michigan battery factory for electric vehicles "until [it's] confident about [its] ability to competitively operate the plant."

Ford, like other automakers, are taking steps to electrify its fleet in hopes of having an all electric vehicle lineup over the next 10 years or so. The automakers affected by the strike, which also include GM and Stellantis, previously said that their electrification efforts currently costing them billions of dollars would be affected by the union's demands. "Toyota, Honda, Tesla and the others are loving the strike, because they know the longer it goes on, the better it is for them," Ford executive chairman William C. Ford Jr. said. Tesla and the Japanese automakers aren't unionized, but the UAW argued that its success with the current strikes could give it the momentum it needs to expand and organize at other companies. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ford-reaches-a-tentative-agreement-with-striking-auto-workers-052421002.html?src=rss

SAG-AFTRA video game actors vote in favor of strike action over wages and AI

SAG-AFTRA members have voted in favor of a strike authorization for performers working in video games, including those who do voice work, motion capture and stunts for the industry. Of the 34,687 members who cast their ballot, 98.32 percent voted "yes." It doesn't automatically mean that the performers are going on strike, only that they could after September 26. 

The guild explained that it's been negotiating for a new contract with video game companies since 2022, but that they "have refused to agree to critical terms [its] members need." For its next bargaining sessions on September 26, 27 and 28, it believes the strike authorization gives it the added leverage needed to get the companies to agree to its terms. At the moment, the guild is in talks with Activision, Blindlight, Disney Character Voices, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Formosa Interactive, Insomniac Games, Take 2 Productions, VoiceWorks Productions and WB Games.

Specifically, SAG-AFTRA is fighting for wage hikes that would allow performers to make a living from their work in the face of inflation, as well as more rigorous safety measures on set. The guild is also fighting for a contract that would protect performers against exploitative uses of artificial intelligence, such as companies making unauthorized copies of their likeness and voice. These all mirror the issues that ignited the ongoing strikes in the film and TV industry. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is believed to be nearing an agreement with major studios, with one of the last sticking points in their negotiations being the use of generative AI in content production. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sag-aftra-video-game-actors-vote-in-favor-of-strike-action-over-wages-and-ai-101515825.html?src=rss

The WGA strike may end as studios offer streaming and AI concessions

Following marathon negotiations over the last five days, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and major studios have reached a tentative deal to end a 146-day strike that has shut down much of the industry, Variety has reported. "We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership," the WGA wrote in an email to members.

Picketing has been suspended as of Sunday night, but the strike is still in force until it's ratified and approved by members. "To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then," the email stated.

One of the last sticking points was reportedly around the use of generative AI in content production. Other details of the contract have yet to be released, including around streaming residuals, staffing levels for shows and more. "Though we are eager to share the details of what has been achieved with you, we cannot do that until the last ‘i’ is dotted," wrote the WGA.

Things were looking bleak for the industry in mid-September, but some high-profile WGA members reportedly pressured leadership to restart negotiations. In addition, four key AMPTP executives (Bob Iger from Disney, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, Ted Sarandos and David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discovery) participated in negotiations for three days. Bargaining resumed on September 20, and the deal was reached five days later.

Considering the strike length and WGA leadership's high level of praise for the deal, a positive vote from membership seems probable. The guild credited membership's solidarity and its willingness to "endure the pain and uncertainty of the past 146 days" as key to clinching the deal. "It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal," it stated in the message.

The labor strife isn't finished yet, though. The SAG-AFTRA actors' guild is still on strike after hitting picket lines on July 14 over issues like likeness rights. "While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP’s tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary terms for our members," the union wrote in a statement.

Even after the actors reach their own deal, it will take time for TV series, films, talk shows and other productions to get back up to speed — so expect delays in your favorite shows coming back. The AMPTP has yet to comment on the WGA deal. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-hollywood-writers-strike-may-soon-end-after-tentative-deal-is-struck-082357469.html?src=rss