Microsoft partners with major US unions to try and reassure workers on AI

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Microsoft has partnered with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in order to ensure that AI tools are developed with workers' concerns in mind to allay their fears of replacement.

In a blog post announcing the partnership, Microsoft said that it will "create an open dialogue to discuss how artificial intelligence (AI) must anticipate the needs of workers and include their voices in its development and implementation."

The tech giant went on to claim that this is the first partnership of its kind to take into account the new cutting-edge technology. It also outlined its three main goals, which are to keep workers informed of AI trends, involve them in its development, and contribute to public policy to support workers in AI-assisted roles. 

Plugging the skills gap

Included in the partnership is also a neutrality agreement concerning future worker organizing by unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO. Microsoft notes that this follows a similar agreement the company reached with the Communications Workers of America Union (CWA) that covers workers at Activision and ZeniMax, both of which Microsoft acquired.

Microsoft says that the framework set out in the agreement will "respect the right of employees to form or join unions, to develop positive and cooperative labor-management relationships, and to negotiate collective bargaining agreements that will support workers in an era of rapid technological change."

Microsoft also pledged that the partnership will offer "formal learning opportunities" for workers and students in the realm of AI, in order to provide organizations and workers with valuable knowledge as the technology continues to evolve.

There will be learning sessions taking place in late 2024, involving AI experts at Microsoft who will provide information on the workings, opportunities, and challenges of AI. Digital resources will also be made available online. 

It will also work with the American Federation of Teachers to "explore joint opportunities for career and technical education work that prepares students for high-paying jobs of tomorrow." Workshops will start in 2024 and carry into 2026 and will be relevant to specific careers and roles.

Microsoft says there will also be a collaboration between developers of AI and workers and labor leaders to share feedback, beginning with a focus on selected unions and workers in certain sectors. Labor summits will take place this winter to foster this discussion, so that the AI technology Microsoft develops can be co-designed with workers.

The ALF-CIO and Microsoft will propose and support policies that help workers navigate the brave new world of workplace AI too. This includes supporting expanded apprenticeships, as well as advocating funding for Career and Technical Education.

Microsoft believes that AI can enhance workers' jobs rather than replace them, but acknowledges that most workers fear the latter, citing a poll from the AFL-CIO that found 70% believe this. However, Microsoft also found in its own study that 70% of workers "would delegate as much work as possible to AI to lessen their workloads."

So as AI continues to creep into the workplace, Microsoft claims that this new partnership will "ensure workers have a voice in the process and that their needs are understood."


Lewis Maddison
Staff Writer

Lewis Maddison is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro. His area of expertise is online security and protection, which includes tools and software such as password managers. 

His coverage also focuses on the usage habits of technology in both personal and professional settings - particularly its relation to social and cultural issues - and revels in uncovering stories that might not otherwise see the light of day.

He has a BA in Philosophy from the University of London, with a year spent studying abroad in the sunny climes of Malta.