Microsoft strikes AI deal with largest US union group

12 Dec 2023

Image: © doganmesut/

AFL-CIO, a federation of unions that represents nearly 12.5m workers, will work with the software giant to include workers’ voices in AI development.

Microsoft has reached an agreement with the largest US federation of unions about AI and its impact on workers, marking the first such instance of a tech giant partnership with unions on the emerging technology.

In an alliance announced yesterday (11 December), the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Microsoft said they will create “open dialogue” on how the voices of workers must be included in AI development.

“By working directly with labour leaders, we can help ensure that AI serves the country’s workers,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith, who, according to Bloomberg, believes that there is no guarantee AI won’t displace jobs.

“This groundbreaking partnership honours the rights of workers, learns from the advice of labour leaders as we develop technology, and helps us provide people with the skills that will become essential in a new AI era.”

As part of the deal, Microsoft will remain neutral during efforts by unions to encourage its workers to become members and “respect the right of employees” to negotiate collective bargaining agreements that will support workers as AI rapidly advances.

Liz Shuler, president of AFL-CIO, said that the partnership with Microsoft reflects a recognition of the “critical role” workers play in the development, deployment and regulation of AI and related technologies.

“The labour movement looks forward to partnering with Microsoft to expand workers’ role in the creation of worker-centred design, workforce training and trustworthy AI practices,” she said. “Microsoft’s neutrality framework and embrace of workers’ expertise signals that this new era of AI can also catalyse a new era of productive labour-management partnerships.”

Microsoft will provide learning opportunities for workers and labour leaders in AI developments starting late next year. It will also accept direct feedback from labour leaders on concerns they have with AI, through summits hosted by the software giant.

AFL-CIO is the largest federation of unions in the US. It consists of 60 unions representing nearly 12.5m workers as of 2022.

Microsoft has taken a lead in AI investment and development. Last month, it announced a £2.5bn investment in the UK to develop the country’s AI infrastructure. This week, a UK watchdog launched an initial review of its financial relationship with OpenAI, the ChatGPT creator Microsoft has invested billions in.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic