Kickstarter Unionizing Controversy

Many creators and others who depend on Kickstarter crowdfunding but want to support efforts to unionize its workers now find themselves in a quandary.

Several Kickstarter employees went public in March about their intentions to unionize, with the potential to make Kickstarter the first major tech company with union representation in the United States.

The employees want to organize as part of the Office of Professional Employees International Union

Kickstater CEO Aziz Hasan says that if an NLRB election is held and a majority of employees in a bargaining unit vote to unionize, they will respect the choice and negotiate in good faith toward a collective bargaining agreement. However, Hasan has made clear he would prefer the business reman non-union. And now Vice is reporting “Workers Accuse Kickstarter of Union-Busting in Federal Complaint”.

[On September 16] unionizing employees at Kickstarter filed a complaint with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) for allegedly wrongfully terminating two employees. Both of the employees were on the Kickstarter United organizing campaign.

Kickstarter told Motherboard that the workers, Clarissa Redwine and Taylor Moore, were fired over performance issues within the past two weeks. But employees at Kickstarter are accusing the company of “discharging employees” because “they joined or supported a labor organization and in order to discourage union activities,” according to the NLRB complaint, which was first reported and obtained by Slate’s April Glaser. A third employee and member of the Kickstarter United organizing committee, Travis Brace, was informed on Thursday that he would no longer be needed in his role.

… Kickstarter told Motherboard that it “recently terminated two employees for performance reasons. A third was working on a service we shut down, so his role was eliminated, and there were no other positions here that would be a strong fit. That staff member will be transitioning out of the company. All three of these employees were members of the organizing committee, but this has nothing to do with their departures. (We have fired three other people who were not organizers since March.)”

… Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153, the union representing Kickstarter workers, filed the charges with the NLRB, the federal agency governing union elections. The NLRB will now ask the union to provide an affidavit describing the charges, and Kickstarter will respond.

Current Affairs editor-in-chief Nathan Robinson, in “Kickstarter To Workers and Project Creators: Drop Dead”, speaks about the ethical decision facing Kickstarter users. He also publicly shared correspondence he received from Kickstarter management and his response.

Current Affairs also posted a statement, “We Stand With The Kickstarter Union”, which has around 250 co-signers, among them sff figures Becky Chambers, Jaym Gates, and Neil Gaiman.

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6 thoughts on “Kickstarter Unionizing Controversy

  1. The employees have the right to join a union, and the company does NOT have any legal way to prevent that. (I worked at one where there was a vote on joining a union. It failed – but it was mostly because the proponents couldn’t present any good reason to do so.)

  2. The company has many illegal but hard-to-prevent ways of making union organizing much harder. For instance, as in this case, firing union organizers. Serious union organizing doesn’t happen in companies that are well-run and treat their employees well.

  3. @Karl-Johen Noren–When overall unionization levels were high enough in the US, nonunionized companies were, uh, “inspired” to run similarly well. The real possibility of facing a union if they didn’t behave themselves had a beneficial effect. As long as they behaved well enough, the work force wouldn’t unionize.

    Unions become necessary when companies aren’t behaving themselves, and that becomes far more likely when the overall unionization level drops below the level that makes them feel like a real threat for companies that aren’t unionized.

    Currently, we need a lot more unions to get back to a healthy level, healthy workforce, and a healthy economy.

    Unionizing is hard. The workers don’t do it for the fun of it. So I assume the firing of two union organizers isn’t innocent.

  4. @OlavRockne said:

    Well, I won’t do anything with Kickstarter now.

    It’s more complicated than that. A boycott now hurts Kickstarter, yes, but when their revenues drop, they are likely to lay off staff and/or cut staff benefits.

    The proto-union has a twitter account – ksr_united – and they have specifically stated that they don’t want creators to abandon live or planned projects. I am really hoping they either reiterate this statement (or make a new one) sometime soon, though, as they’ve retweeted a number of critical articles making it unclear if their position has changed (although I suspect it hasn’t just yet).

    Restoration Games made an excellent statement prior to their upcoming project. I’m seeing similar statements from a number of small game publishers who use KS as part of their process.

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