On Monday, the largest federation of international labor unions announced a groundbreaking agreement with technology giant Microsoft, allowing employees to unionize and initiating a dialogue on the ethical use and implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) within the company.
Microsoft President Brad Smith emphasized the importance of collaborating with labor leaders to ensure that AI serves the workforce. He stated, “This groundbreaking partnership honors the rights of workers, learns from the advice of labor leaders as we develop technology, and helps us provide people with the skills that will become essential in a new AI era.”
The agreement with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) outlines several goals, including sharing information on AI technology trends among labor leaders and workers, incorporating worker perspectives in the development of AI technology, and contributing to public policies that support the technology skills and needs of frontline workers.
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler highlighted the recognition of workers’ critical role in AI development and emphasized Microsoft’s neutrality framework, signaling a new era of productive labor-management partnerships.
Formed in 1955, AFL-CIO represents 60 national and international unions with over 12 million members. This agreement is the latest in Microsoft’s efforts to address worker concerns through collaboration with labor unions. Last year, the company signed a similar labor neutrality agreement with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), demonstrating its commitment to respecting workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively.
The rise of generative AI has sparked discussions across various industries about the potential impact on the workforce. Microsoft’s proactive approach aims to address these concerns and foster positive relationships with employees, shareholders, and other stakeholders. Brad Smith expressed the belief that a company that listens to and collaborates effectively with its employees is likely to navigate future challenges successfully.