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Kickstarter Employees Vote to Join Union

The victory is one of the first at a major tech firm

Brian Young's picture
Feb 19, 2020

A major victory has been won for unions in the tech world as they are celebrating their first victory at a major tech firm. Employees at Kickstarter announced that they have successfully voted to join the Office of Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153.

The new bargaining unit is based in New York and will be made up of 85 engineers, directors, analysts, designers, coordinators and customer support specialists and a few other smaller job titles. The victory is being billed as historic as they are possibly the most well-known and largest tech firm to be organized.

The organizing campaign started when the group, calling themselves Kickstarter United, announced more than a year ago that they would pursue union recognition. They cited several issues that they wanted to be addressed including more transparency from management, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, implementing more inclusive hiring practices and giving employees a voice in the decision-making process. They also said that they wanted the company to live up to progressive foundational values that they espoused. The union was formed after a vote by the employees. The votes were 47 in favor and 36 opposed to joining the union.

"We believe unionizing provides a path toward furthering all of our goals," said Oriana Leckert, a KSRU spokesperson who is a senior journalism outreach lead at the company. "It was truly an honor to get to have deep conversations with so many of my colleagues around these issues. Utilizing our collective power to improve our workplace and our professional lives will increase Kickstarter's ability to have a radical, positive impact on society by allowing us all to advocate for workers' rights, which is a core pillar of the fight against inequality."

"Technical workers in the industry are put on a pedestal until they are no longer necessary, but every worker at a company makes it what it is – from your community outreach people to your customer support people, to the people running your facilities," said Dannel Jurado, a Kickstarter senior software engineer. "I'm overjoyed by this result. There's a long road ahead of us, but it's a first step to the sustainable future in tech that I and so many others want to see."

With the successful organizing effort at Kickstarter, many are wondering if this is a sign of things to come in the tech world. While companies like Google and Amazon pay their tech workers well and give them good benefits, employees at both companies have begun to take a more activist stand against some of their company's policies. Google was recently accused of firing 5 union organizers, while Amazon workers faced retaliation on the job for protesting the company’s work with fossil fuel companies. While union efforts at both tech giants are probably still a long way away, the Kickstarter union campaign can serve as a model for a new type of organizing.

 “We hope to inspire all workers everywhere to fight for what they deserve: a healthy and safe workplace, both mentally and physically," added Camilla Zhang, a Kickstarter comics outreach lead.

OPEIU is also hoping that this victory will give them a new foothold in a growing industry. For the labor movement to grow, many believe they need to start organizing office workers and tech workers. This victory will give the union a leg up when it comes to organizing the tech world.

"The tech sector represents a new frontier for union organizing, and OPEIU is excited to represent one of the first tech groups to successfully win collective bargaining rights and to be part of the labor movement's efforts to improve the livelihoods of tech employees everywhere," said Richard Lanigan, OPEIU president and OPEIU Local 153 Business Manager.

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