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Microsoft Runs Pro-Union Ad Amidst Activision Blizzard Acquisition

Microsoft recently found itself in hot water when it made some strong remarks against the FTC's antitrust lawsuit, calling it unconstitutional. However, this statement was later walked back by the company, and a revised response was filed. Microsoft is under the microscope for its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and several authorities have been running investigations upon it, the FTC included. Perhaps as an added measure, the company has deemed it fit to run an advertisement in the Washington Post, standing up for unionization and also supporting the FTC.

The ad is a long-form statement with the headline, A New Year Opens New Doors, and is co-signed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Whatever the internal motive may be, it looks like Microsoft wants everyone to know that the company is in favour of unions.

"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," says the ad, transcribed by The Verge. "When both labor and management bring their voices to the bargaining table, employees, shareholders and customers alike benefit.

"This includes the more than 300 employees at Microsoft’s ZeniMax Media studios who have exercised their legal right to vote to form a union. 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."

Contrary to the company initially calling the FTC's actions "unconstitutional", the ad commends the commision and invites it to look into any possible instances of anti-competition brought about via the acquisition.

"We aren’t asking the FTC 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, economic growth and American innovation.

We believe this is the spirit that led Congress to establish the FTC in 1914."

The ad concludes by saying that this is "a spirit worth keeping alive today." This is evidently a sharp u-turn from the statements made by the company when the FTC initially issued the antitrust lawsuit. At the time, Microsoft's official legal response stated the entire case was in violation of article 3 of the U.S. constitution. It further accused the FTC of "improper selective enforcement of antitrust laws." It also said that "The Commission’s procedures arbitrarily subject Microsoft to administrative proceedings rather than to proceedings before an Article III judge in violation of Microsoft’s right to Equal Protection under the Fifth Amendment."

However, just a few days later, Microsoft walked back these statements. In a statement, Microsoft public affairs spokesperson David Cuddy said, "The FTC has an important mission to protect competition and consumers, and we quickly updated our response to omit language suggesting otherwise based on the constitution. We initially put all potential arguments on the table internally and should have dropped these defenses before we filed. We appreciated feedback about these defenses and are engaging directly with those who expressed concerns to make our position clear."

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