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Workers at eBay-owned trading card seller TCGPlayer filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge on Friday, claiming that management at the company had for the past two weeks been violating federal labor law. The charge comes just two days after workers at the company filed to unionize with the Communications Workers of America with a proposed unit size of 282. It's the first unionization effort by any group of eBay workers.
The charge alleges “unlawful surveillance of union activity,” and that the “impression of surveillance [was] designed to interfere with, restrain and coerce employees” with regard to their right to organize. “Multiple TCGPlayer supervisors and managers, including CEO Chedy Hampson, have patrolled the floor of the authentication center, taking note of employees who have worn any clothes or insignia identifying them as supporters of TCGunion-CWA,” the CWA said in a press release, referring to the company’s facility in Syracuse, New York. The filing lists Hampson, who founded the trading-card company 25 years ago, alongside three other managers at the facility. “It’s clear the actions of TCGPlayer management are inconsistent with their proclamation of being among the best workplaces in New York State,” said Sara Steffens, the secretary-treasurer of the CWA. “If TCGPlayer wants to live up to its core value of ‘community for all,’ they must respect their workers’ rights and allow a free and fair election to happen without interference.” TCGPlayer specializes in Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Magic: The Gathering authenticated cards, which if in good condition can sell for thousands of dollars. One Pokémon card set on the site—a first-edition Jungle Booster Box—is listed at almost $13,000. One Magic: The Gathering set is listed at even higher.
TCGPlayer attempted to unionize once before, two years before eBay acquired it last November for $295 million. “In 2020, TCG workers had publicly announced their union and filed for election with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU),” the CWA press release reads. “Management responded by hiring notorious union-busting firm Littler Mendelson, and ran an intense anti-union campaign where workers were regularly ordered to attend captive audience meetings and disparaged by management in company communications.” Workers withdrew their petition at the time. In its new list of demands, released on Jan. 25, the union is asking for clearer grievance and discipline procedures that apply equally to management, to end “targeted retaliation” that the union alleges prevents workers from moving up in the company, as well as a fair sick leave policy that “does not punish people for factors they cannot control.” Workers are also demanding better wages, clearer training, and more inclusive opportunities to advance. “We are incredibly passionate about our work, but passion can only get us so far, “said Jennifer Bonham, a shipping generalist at the company. “We want to see our collective health and well-being thrive because for many of us, this is the best job we have ever had.” Neither eBay nor TCGPlayer immediately responded to a request for comment.