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Kickstarter controversially sends unionization to a vote after staff firings

Kickstarter controversially sends unionization to a vote after staff firings

October 4, 2019 | By Chris Kerr

October 4, 2019 | By Chris Kerr
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Kickstarter has told staff it will recognize a union if employees vote for one in an election certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). 

The news comes after the crowdfunding company, which has helped fund a trove of notable video game projects, was accused of union busting for allegedly firing three employees for their involvement in ongoing unionization efforts. 

Dismissing staff members for union-related activities is forbidden by U.S. labor law, and although Kickstarter has pushed back against the allegations, one of those fired employees, Taylor Moore, recently told The Verge that's exactly what happened. 

"This morning after six years of pouring my life into the mission, people, and creators of Kickstarter, I was fired for union organizing," commented Moore, back in September.  "Last week another member of the union organizing committee was fired and we have reason to believe that more are being targeted."

Following those sackings, Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan ruled out voluntarily recognizing a staff union, which resulted in employees requesting the company do precisely that (thanks Vice). Now, a few days on, Kickstarter has issued a statement explaining it "fully supports" its staff's right to decide if they want unionization, and said it will let employees make their choice via an anonymous ballot. 

"Our staff members have expressed starkly different opinions on unionization over the last six months. A secret-ballot election run by the National Labor Relations Board will fairly and democratically resolve the internal debate and ensure that all voices are heard. We will recognize a union if our staff chooses that path in an NLRB-certified election," reads an update to Kickstarter's 'recent events' FAQ.

"The organizing effort here has been complicated by the fact that some supervisors have been involved in the organizing process. This is highly unusual. It creates an obvious risk that employees will feel pressure from their supervisors, which is why it’s not allowed under labor law. We’ve received complaints from staff members about this.

"Two weeks ago the union organizers urged the staff to pursue 'a fair, anonymous, and democratic election.' That should be the next step. We have a responsibility to protect the rights of all of our staff members in this process. It's their right to decide if there should be a union at Kickstarter, not ours."

Despite its commitment to letting employees decide their own fate, company leadership has retired its belief that unionization isn't the way forward, and suggests the benefits of such a move are hard to see. 

"We don’t think a union framework is the right tool to fix Kickstarter’s problems. We think that the company is better positioned to overcome its challenges, serve its mission, and do right by its employees and community without this framework," continues the FAQ.

"As a public benefit corporation, and a small but mighty 160-person company, Kickstarter is already set up in a way that reduces the pressure to chase profits and keeps us focused on our mission: helping to bring creative projects to life.

"The organizers have not yet clearly communicated the problems that they believe a union could address, and how a union would fix them. This has made it more difficult to determine how this union would benefit Kickstarter."

You can find out more about the company's stance by checking out the full unionization FAQ right here.



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