Kickstarter Fires Three Union Organizers. Unionization Effort Launched Due to Comics (Updated)
Kickstarter is letting it’s anti-union flag fly as it’s fired two staffers who were attempting to organize a union at the company.
Taylor Moore and Clarissa Redwine were fired within a week of each other. Both were involved in a unionization effort that began last year. It’s reported the reason for the firings were “performance-related issues.”
Update: A third individual was told there was “no place for him at the company” according to Moore. It’s unknown if that individual is still employed with Kickstarter but the wording of Moore’s Tweet would indicate that’s not the case.
Redwine and the Office and Professional Employees International Union filed an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board. They allege that the severance agreement offered to her by Kickstarter contained an illegally phrased nondisparagement clause. The Professional Employees International Union was the organization employees were organizing through.
The company in response to the charge has said that it offered Redwine a narrowed nondisparagement clause focused on employees and not the company as a whole.
Redwine has since tweeted:
Talking to Slate, Redwine said she believes that it’s impossible for a former employee to “give an accurate, detailed depiction of their experience” with such a clause. She went on to say that she feels any “agreement that treats severance as repayment for silence is an unethical one.”
Unionization efforts sparked by a comic…
The unionization effort began in March. In May, CEO Aziz Hasan told employees the company wouldn’t voluntarily recognize the union if asked but would respect the results of a secret staff vote. Since then the company has expressed to staff that it doesn’t believe a union is right for Kickstarter. They claimed it’d be “expensive, disruptive, and slow the company down.”
Kickstarter United, the union effort, has concerns over workplace issues like salary equity, diversity in hiring, and a seat at the table concerning company decisions.
The effort stemmed from the handling of a comic project, Always Punch Nazis. That comic has run two successful campaigns ont he platform with a third incoming. The comic made thew news and far-right site Breitbart accused Kickstarter of violating its terms due to allowing a project that encouraged violence. The comics’ titel comes from the incident where white nationalist Richard Spencer was punched. The satirical graphic novel was about the country’s battle against racism.
Breitbart’s article rattled Kickstarter having them review the project. The Trust and Safety team initially decided to not act about the project but then management overruled them saying it had to be cancelled.
Employees felt management was giving in to bigots. An emergency meeting was called to hear employee concerns. Management said that the company needed to be consistent and enforce its policies and that the project shouldn’t have been approved to start.
A protest then ensued saying management was making a “both sides” argument. Not all staff agreed the project should remain but the overwhelming majority did. Management eventually reversed their decision.
In the weeks that followed the employee who shared the decision about the project to the company Slack channel was fired. Workers believed it was due to the posting. Threats from management against the Trust and Safety team were made about questioning decisions. Employees were then reminded that New York is an “at will” employment state meaning employees could be fired at any time.
From there, the discussion to unionize began with the majority off junior employees supporting it.
Kickstarter has become a vital tool in the comic industry where unionization has been a hot topic for years.
Comics have seen 14,670 projects launched on the platform with 8,383 of them successfully funding. Those successful comic projects have earned over $93.88 million dollars. There are nearly 241 projects raising almost $1 million currently running on the platform as of the publishing of this article. You can find daily updates stats on the Kickstarter site.
Comic creators have been vocal in recent years over comiXology’s support of creators and conventions and their parent company Amazon. Labor abuses and anti-union efforts by Amazon and their clients was one reason cited for concerns. It’s unknown if Kickstarter’s anti-labor stance will see similar ire. Kickstarter is sponsoring tables and the Ignatz Awards at this week’s Small Press Expo.