Microsoft and labor unions are collaborating to establish “an open dialogue” about the impact of artificial intelligence on employment.

According to a statement released on Monday, the software giant is joining forces with the AFL-CIO, a group of 60 labor unions that collectively represent 12.5 million people.

Under the agreement, Microsoft, a company based in Redmond, Washington, will give labor leaders and employees official training in artificial intelligence. The winter of 2024 will see the start of the educational sessions. Additionally, Microsoft plans to start soliciting input from labor organizations and workers in “key selected sectors.”

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With growing concerns that artificial intelligence could displace workers, labor unions and the technology sector are collaborating on AI for the first time with this effort.

A blueprint for “neutrality” language that would facilitate union organizing at Microsoft is also included in the deal. This move establishes the foundation for greater unionization at Microsoft and builds upon a strategy the firm had already agreed to for its video game workers. Companies that sign neutrality agreements promise not to launch anti-union campaigns in retaliation for employees organizing.

Microsoft President Brad Smith stated that the objective is to bring both parties to the table to “enhance” the way people work at a Washington, DC, event announcing the alliance.

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“I can’t just sit here and claim that jobs will never be replaced by AI. That wouldn’t be honest, in my opinion,” he remarked. “Some of the parts of people’s jobs that you might consider to be drudgery can be accelerated and eliminated by AI.”

“We can guarantee that AI benefits the nation’s workers by collaborating closely with labor leaders,” he stated.

In addition to “helping shape public policy that supports the technology skills and needs of frontline workers,” the alliance’s objectives also include “sharing in-depth information with labor leaders and workers on AI technology trends, incorporating worker perspectives and expertise in the development of AI technology.”

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“This collaboration is a groundbreaking and historic alliance that recognizes the vital role workers play in the development, application, and regulation of AI and related technologies,” stated AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler.

In a parallel move, Microsoft consented to put clauses controlling AI use in a contract that applies to several hundred employees of the company’s video game studio, ZeniMax. The tentative deal is a part of the first-ever U.S. collective bargaining in Microsoft’s history, which is being held in conjunction with the Communications Workers of America.

Microsoft’s six AI principles—which pledge the corporation to ensure the systems “treat all people fairly” and “empower everyone and engage people”—are incorporated into the language. Microsoft pledges to use “these AI principles across all of our AI technologies to help employees achieve greater productivity, growth, and satisfaction in the work they do” in the recently signed agreement, which was seen by Bloomberg News.

In response to questions concerning the text of the AI contract, Microsoft remained silent.


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