Enlarge/ Kickstarter employees work at a library in the company’s Brooklyn headquarters in 2017.
232 with 100 posters participating
Workers at Kickstarter voted Tuesday to form a union. It’s the first time the white-collar workers at a high-profile technology company have formally chosen to be represented by a union. With growing unrest among workers at larger technology giantsincluding Google and Amazonit could be the start of a trend.
Kickstarter has long been an unusual technology company. In 2015, the firm re-organized as a public benefit corporation, devoted to promoting the public interest rather than maximizing profits. In 2017, Fast Company reported that Kickstarter employed an equal number of men and women, paid its top executives less than five times more than the average employee, and was working hard to recruit interns from diverse backgrounds.
But Kickstarter became embroiled in controversy in August 2018 when it hosted a crowdfunding campaign for a comic book called “Always Punch Nazis.” Conservatives cried foul, saying that Kickstarter’s terms of service prohibit projects that encourage violence against othersand that some liberals have labeled mainstream conservative figures, including President Donald Trump, as Nazis.
The issue was controversial within Kickstarter. Management eventually decided to remove the campaign, then reversed themselves again after an uproar from rank-and-file Kickstarter employees. The issue created lingering bad blood between labor and management and caused some Kickstarter employees to take a serious look at organizing a union.
Relations between management and the union organizers deteriorated over the next year. Last summer, Kickstarter fired two employees involved in union organizing. The employees say this was illegal retaliation for their organizing efforts; the company insists that the firings were performance-related and had nothing to do with the organizing effort.
In any event, Kickstarter’s efforts to discourage its employees from forming a union were unsuccessful. On Tuesday, employees voted by a 47 to 36 margin to form the union.
Those relatively small numbers highlight the fact that Kickstarter is not one of the Internet’s biggest technology players. Kickstarter is a small enough company that all of its workers can comfortably fit in a large auditorium. Organizing white-collar workers at Facebook or Googleto say nothing of hundreds of thousands of Amazon warehouse workers or Uber driverswould be a much bigger challenge.