Microsoft agreed to neutrality on unionization should its employees seek to unionize, announcing Dec. 11 that the company and the AFL-CIO would work together on artificial intelligence issues. We’ve gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other outlets.
Neutral Stance on Labor
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said Microsoft’s position differed from other tech companies that she said have fought efforts to unionize. Microsoft’s “positioning is—if workers want to organize, we shouldn’t stand in their way,” Shuler said.
“By working directly with labor leaders, we can help ensure that AI serves the country’s workers,” said Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft. “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.”
AI’s Role in the Workplace’s Future Highlighted
The partnership will include meetings in which AI experts from Microsoft brief labor leaders and workers on developments in the technology. Microsoft’s experts will also seek input from workers so they can develop AI while addressing such concerns as job elimination. The company and the AFL-CIO said they would collaborate to enact policies that would prepare workers for jobs incorporating AI.
Different Perspectives on AI
The announcement comes as business leaders and policymakers consider wide-ranging potential impacts AI will have on the labor market. Prominent voices in the tech industry have highlighted AI’s ability to help employees work more efficiently. But labor leaders have raised concerns over the potential for AI tools to put some out of work.
Influential Guidelines May Be Next
The size and influence of Microsoft and the AFL-CIO will increase the chance that any guidelines they reach will be adopted by employers in contract deals with unions, said Rebecca Givan, associate professor at Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations in Piscataway, N.J.
Guidance from Biden Administration
Human resource professionals searching for guidance on managing artificial intelligence should pay attention to the Biden administration’s Oct. 30 executive order that seeks to manage the risks of AI and reap its benefits.