Kickstarter CEO Says Management Won't Voluntarily Recognize Employee Union

Graphic: Kickstarter

Recently promoted Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan wrote in an email to all staff that company management will not voluntarily recognize a union in the process of organizing and will instead seek a National Labor Relations Board election, the Verge reported on Wednesday.

News of an organizing effort at the popular crowdfunding platform, which unlike most other major tech companies is a public benefit corporation with a board obligated to assess social impact when making decisions, first broke in March 2019. In a memo separately obtained by the Verge, organizers wrote that Kickstarter’s “values have failed to manifest in our workplace” and they wanted “solidarity, transparency and accountability; a seat at the table.” To that end, the Kickstarter United effort is organizing with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153.

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Kickstarter United wrote in a statement at that time that they “trust in the democratic process and are confident that the leadership of Kickstarter stands with us in that effort.” However, reports later indicated that some senior staffers had come out against the effort, writing in a leaked memo that the unionization process “hasn’t felt transparent or fair” and that organizers were “vague about grievances.” In that memo, the opponents called for “well-intentioned, good faith dialogue with executives,” called a union drive “extreme,” and bafflingly alluded to the “misappropriation of unions for use by privileged workers.”

In excerpts from Hasan’s latest email to staff posted by the Verge, the CEO acknowledged “the need for better communication, definition around roles and responsibilities, clarity around compensation, and processes that allow for perspectives to be shared and captured across the organization.” Hasan added that he knows Kickstarter has “a lack of trust among the people who work here.”

Regardless, Hasan wrote that management believes “... We are 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.”

On that list of concerns, the Verge wrote, was a vague point about unionization “significantly” changing “the way we operate and work together.” Hasan added that “some supervisors have been involved in the organizing process,” which he wrote poses “a risk that employees will feel pressured by their managers to support or oppose the union effort.” That seems similar to the line management at podcast network Gimlet Media gave while (unsuccessfully) trying to prevent a union drive.

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In a statement to Gizmodo, Kickstarter spokesperson said that Hasan had “spoke with the staff today about internal issues facing the company” after two months of deliberation by management.

“Kickstarter’s leadership shared its views in the interest of transparency and open discussion, and is in no way seeking to impair the rights of staff members to organize,” the spokesperson wrote. “That decision is entirely up to the staff, and the company’s leadership will respect that decision... It’s worth noting that the union organizers have not asked for recognition.”

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Gizmodo has reached out to the organizers of Kickstarter’s union drive, and we’ll update if we hear back.

Update 5/16/19 10:12 am ET: OPEIU’s director of communications replied to Gizmodo’s inquiry with the following statement: “Kickstarter United is continuing to build their workplace union by ensuring democratic and inclusive participation and they’re not ready to discuss publicly at this time.”

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[The Verge]

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Tom McKay

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post