Employees at Kickstarter voted to form a union on February 18th, NBC News reports, forming the first union in the tech industry in the United States.
After an 18-month “battle” with management, and an employee vote of 36 to 47 in favor of unionizing, Kickstarter United will now be recognized by management. The vote was held by the National Labor Relations Board. NBC News reports this is “the first union comprised of white-collar, full-time employees in the technology industry.”
In September 2019, Kickstarter fired two staff members who were attempting to form a union- Clarissa Redwine and Taylor Moore. Kickstarter representatives denied this was over them forming a union. Five then-former and current employees later reached out to Slate, claiming “managers didn’t follow their normal procedure for a worker who is not meeting company standards.”
The issues the union had included “salary equity, diversity in hiring, and wanting a seat at the table when it comes to company decisions.” A former employee also stated to Slate “We all chose to work at Kickstarter because it was kind of an anti-capitalistic company to start out with, like with the collective funding structure and the public benefit corporation [status].”
Another contributing factor was due to Kickstarter’s management pulling the crowdfunding for the “Always Punch Nazis” satirical comic book (regarding the allegedly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017)- after an exposé by Breitbart claimed it violated their own terms of service.
Anonymous employees claimed to Slate that the majority of staff were “livid,” and that there was vocal protest, and at least one engineer threatening to quit. In Slate’s words, “shortly thereafter, executives reversed their reversal.”
In the following weeks, management allegedly pressured the employee who shared the content decision with staff to quit, and that managers warned the staff of the Trust and Safety team not to question their decisions. Kickstarter’s General Counsel also allegedly reminded employees that New York was under “at will” employment laws, and so they could be fired at any time.
Due to these factors, employees doubled down on forming a union. This occurred allegedly while management held mandatory meetings, explaining why a union would not benefit the employees. Other employees would leave, including another union organizer Alex Kennedy- claiming that senior management used “sexist tropes” when she brought up issues with pay equality.
While an alleged leaked internal memo in March 2019 claimed that senior staff did not desire a union, Slate claims this opinion shifted over time. NBC News reports management signed a “neutrality agreement” in December 2019, preventing them from attempting to dissuade employees from unionizing.
Clarissa Redwine spoke to NBC News about the newly formed union.
“What Kickstarter employees are organizing a union for is the agency to challenge management when management is failing the community. Workers want to be able to participate in critical product decisions without retaliation, to change how the company handles sexual harassment, how it addresses gender discrimination, and they want to take on future challenges with a healthy power structure.”
Things are far from over, as now the union and management negotiate a contract to address the union’s concerns. NBC News reports diversity hiring is also a matter of discussion. CEO Aziz Hasan stated “We support and respect this decision, and we are proud of the fair and democratic process that got us here.”
NBC News also reports the decision comes at a time of “growing discontent among employees at technology companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft.” Even so, this has seemingly not stopped Google employees petitioning to halt working with the Pentagon on AI for drones, and to scrap a censored version of the search engine in China.
The Kickstarter union will be organizing with the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153.
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