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Heartbreak at Kickstarter

Fundraising company, who claims to be not-for-profit, digging in against employee union organization

Kris LaGrange's picture
May 17, 2019

The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has become a staple for startup companies, artists and the creatively independent. Even UCOMM used the platform to raise money for our UCOMM Live recording studio. However, a new CEO has brought trouble to the company after he sent a company-wide email to the staff informing them that he would fight their efforts to organize.

Staff decided to organize after the company failed to pass their values onto their workforce. Unlike most other companies, Kickstarter is a public benefit corporation. This means that the board is obligated to assess the social impact of their decisions. However, staff organizers say that these values have failed to manifest in their workplace and that they want solidarity, transparency, and accountability, plus a seat at the table.

Aziz Hasan, who was promoted to CEO in March, responded to the staff’s organizing effort with the typical corporate BS claiming that the company was “better set up to be successful without the framework of a union. I feel that it is important to be clear and honest with you about our thinking on this.” He claimed that a union would significantly change the way Kickstarter works and operates and that staff was just being pressured by managers to support the union since some managers are included in the proposed bargaining unit.

According to Gizmodo, this was a very similar line to what management at podcast network Gimlet Media used when they tried to unsuccessfully pressure their staff into ending a union drive.

The organizing effort at Kickstarter is being held as a case study to see whether the tech industry can be organized. In their letter announcing the union drive, Kickstarter United said that while they are interested in protections for themselves, they are also doing this to gain protections for other tech companies. Most of the tech industry is non-union, but interest and activism have grown with employees at Google holding walkouts to protest sexual harassment and video game creators beginning an organizing drive of their own.

Since management refused to recognize the union, the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153 which Kickstarter United is affiliating with, has said that they will hold a National Labor Relations Board election.

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