AFL-CIO and Microsoft Announce New Tech-Labor Partnership on AI and the Future of the Workforce
New AI alliance will educate workers, incorporate labor’s voice in tech development and help shape policy that supports workers
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced the formation of a new partnership to create an open dialogue to discuss how artificial intelligence (AI) must anticipate the needs of workers and include their voices in its development and implementation. 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.
Building upon the historic neutrality agreement the Communications Workers of America negotiated with Microsoft covering video game workers at Activision and ZeniMax, as well as the labor principles announced by Microsoft in June 2022, the partnership also includes an agreement with Microsoft that provides a neutrality framework for worker organizing by AFL-CIO affiliate unions. This framework confirms a joint commitment to respect the right of employees to form or join unions, to develop positive and cooperative labor-management relationships, and to negotiate collective bargaining agreements that will support workers in an era of rapid technological change.
“This partnership reflects a recognition of the critical role workers play in the development, deployment, and regulation of AI and related technologies,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “The labor movement looks forward to partnering with Microsoft to expand workers’ role in the creation of worker-centered design, workforce training, and trustworthy AI practices. Microsoft’s neutrality framework and embrace of workers’ expertise signals that this new era of AI can also catalyze a new era of productive labor-management partnerships.”
“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 ground-breaking 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 partnership will deliver on the following goals:
- AI education for workers and students: Microsoft will provide formal learning opportunities on the latest and prospective developments in AI, providing labor leaders and workers with critical information and insights on this new technology as it evolves.
This will begin with learning sessions that will take place during the winter of 2024 facilitated by Microsoft’s AI experts, who will provide information about how AI works and where it’s going, outline its opportunities, and analyze the potential challenges. These sessions will be augmented by on-demand digital resources that labor leaders and workers can access online. Working with the American Federation of Teachers, Microsoft will explore joint opportunities for career and technical education work that prepares students for high-paying jobs of tomorrow. In addition, they will hold deep-dive and experiential workshops from 2024 through 2026 that will be tailored to specific careers and roles.
- Direct feedback from labor leaders and workers: To ensure that the expertise and perspectives of workers inform the work of Microsoft’s AI developers, the partners have developed a mechanism for labor leaders and workers to share experiential insights, concerns and feedback directly to the people who develop this technology. This collaboration will begin with a focus on unions and workers in selected key sectors.
This collaboration will start this winter and take the form of Microsoft-hosted labor summits. The partners will bring labor leaders and workers together with Microsoft’s key AI product developers, researchers and business leaders for intensive discussions intended to co-design and develop “worker-centered technology.”
- Joint policy and skills development: As Congress debates future AI and workforce legislation in the committees of the House and Senate and the bipartisan AI Insight Forums, the AFL-CIO and Microsoft will join forces to propose and support policies that will equip workers with the essential skills, knowledge and economic support needed to thrive in an AI-powered economy. The two organizations will support the expansion of registered apprenticeships, particularly in nontraditional tech occupations, and advocate for funding for Career and Technical Education.
On the AI curriculum front, LinkedIn Generative AI content will be tailored to specific sectors most affected by AI, and Microsoft and the AFL-CIO’s Technology Institute will jointly develop and implement new content and professional learning opportunities to prepare workers for the future workplace.
Both partners acknowledge AI creates a real capacity to enhance workers’ jobs if used to augment work rather than diminish workers’ agency and responsibilities. According to new polling by AFL-CIO, 70% of workers worry about being replaced by AI. At the same time, a recent Microsoft study of workers found that 70% would delegate as much work as possible to AI to lessen their workloads. To improve work while creating richer possibilities for our lives on the whole, the transition to an AI-assisted future must center workers’ voices. That’s why Microsoft and the AFL-CIO have created this labor-tech partnership—to make sure workers have a voice in the process and that their needs are understood.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) works tirelessly to improve the lives of working people.
We are the democratic, voluntary federation of 60 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million working people.
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT, @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
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