Kickstarter

Kickstarter Calls Itself Progressive. But About That Union.

18 October 2019

From The New York Times:

Kickstarter, the Brooklyn-based crowdfunding site, has long tried to stand apart from Silicon Valley, seeking to portray itself as a socially responsible enterprise that cares more about improving the world than putting money in wealthy shareholders’ pockets.

Then came the union drive.

Earlier this year, a group of Kickstarter employees publicly pressed to form a union, calling for a larger say in the company’s operations. They were spurred to action after controversy over a Kickstarter campaign for a satirical comic book filled with images of people punching Nazis.

Kickstarter pushed back against the union, and as the effort dragged on, two of the organizers were dismissed last month in what they say was retaliation.

Kickstarter maintains it is not anti-labor, and has repeatedly said the firings had nothing to do with the union drive. It said the two workers were let go because of performance issues unrelated to their union organizing.

. . . .

But the firings provoked an outcry from political progressives that echoed across social media and stoked an emotional response from hundreds of the same creators who had been foundational to the site’s success, as well as high-profile supporters like the author Neil Gaiman, the cartoonist Matt Bors and the actor David Cross.

“People should partner with companies that align with their values,” said Nathan J. Robinson, editor of Current Affairs, a left-wing magazine that launched after a Kickstarter campaign in 2015. “When a company is union-busting, there is a very good reason not to give them a percentage of your money.”

Mr. Robinson has been an outspoken voice against Kickstarter. His magazine was in the middle of a second Kickstarter campaign when the controversy erupted, causing his pro-union donors to consider rescinding their contributions.

. . . .

“I have felt extremely conflicted, and at times deeply hypocritical,” said Steve O’Gorman, 33, a game developer from England raising money for an independent video game about unionization.

“The money from the Kickstarter is make-or-break,” he added.

. . . .

Labor organizers and tech industry observers are watching carefully: Will the workers be among the first white-collar employees at a major tech company to unionize?

. . . .

From the time the unionization effort became public in March, it was contentious within the company. Days after organizers announced their intent to unionize, three nonmanagerial employees sent an email to the entire staff voicing dissent. Organizers say that a majority of eligible employees now support unionization.

. . . .

In its charter, Kickstarter seemed to encode progressive values into the company’s DNA, promising to engage with larger social issues, including workplace inequality.

The Kickstarter organizers, who are working with the Office and Professional Employees International Union, said they want to ensure the company maintains that commitment.

“A lot of Silicon Valley places will tell you, ‘Oh, we’re changing the world,’” said Taylor Moore, the other organizer fired in September. “At Kickstarter, you can see the people’s lives you’re changing, the people who are helping change the culture.”

The organizers have called for greater transparency in decision making, diversity and pay equity. They have also demanded stronger protections for employees who disagree with management or who file complaints.

. . . .

“The union framework is inherently adversarial,” [Kickstarter President Aziz] Hasan wrote. “That dynamic doesn’t reflect who we are as a company, how we interact, how we make decisions, or where we need to go.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times