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Labor Unions Team with Microsoft on AI Worker Rights

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Microsoft announced a partnership to strengthen workers' rights with the growth of AI.

The partnership aims to establish a framework to respect employees' union rights, foster positive labor-management relationships and create collective bargaining agreements in a tech industry that has seen the rapid growth of generative AI.

"To improve work while creating richer possibilities for our lives on the whole, the transition to an AI-assisted future must center workers' voices," said Microsoft, in a released statement. "That's why Microsoft and the AFL-CIO have created this labor-tech partnership -- to ensure workers have a voice in the process and that their needs are understood."

The initiative brings both labor organizations and tech companies together to focus on AI policy formation and worker development. Per a Microsoft announcement:

This partnership is the first of its kind between a labor organization and a technology company to focus on AI and will deliver on three goals: (1) sharing in-depth information with labor leaders and workers on AI technology trends; (2) incorporating worker perspectives and expertise in the development of AI technology; and (3) helping shape public policy that supports the technology skills and needs of frontline workers.

To achieve the first goal, Microsoft said it would offer formal learning opportunities and up-to-date education on the latest AI technologies. Look for these to kick off in winter 2024, led by Microsoft AI experts. Further, the company will work with the American Federation of Teachers to help create practical AI curriculum for students looking to enter the market, as well as hosting AI-related workshops through 2026.

Next, to further collaborate with both labor leaders and workers, a series of labor summits will be held with key decision-makers from tech and labor to discuss and help design worker-centric technology.

"By working directly with labor leaders, we can help ensure that AI serves the country's workers,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. "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."

Finally, to achieve the third outlined goal, both Microsoft and the AFL-CIO will team up to advocate for policies supporting worker skills and knowledge in an AI-driven economy and will focus on developing AI curriculum tailored to sectors most impacted by AI.

The initiative builds on Microsoft's prior engagement with labor groups, including the neutrality agreement with the Communications Workers of America Union (CWA) concerning video game workers at Activision and Zenimax.

About the Author

Chris Paoli (@ChrisPaoli5) is the associate editor for Converge360.

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