A national labor organization and publisher of activist board games have launched a campaign on Kickstarter to fund a new game about organizing labor movements to rebel against corporate consolidation. In the game, STRIKE!: The Game of Worker Rebellion, “players will grow their ranks, mobilize workers, and organize strikes around their city.”
The campaign for the board game, which creators describe as a “completely and unabashedly a pro-labor rights game,” arrives, ironically, at a moment when Kickstarter employees are in the midst of their own bitter union drive.
Within two weeks in September, two of Kickstarter’s union’s lead organizers were fired and a third phased out. Now the company, which has situated itself as a progressive outlier from Silicon Valley tech companies, faces a federal complaint for allegedly retaliating against union organizers, and has declined the union’s request for voluntary recognition. Kickstarter’s newly appointed CEO Aziz Hasan has denied that the firings were related to union organizing, but said that a “union framework is inherently adversarial.”
At a tense company-wide meeting on October 9, union members held signs reading “Card Checks Are Democratic” and “Recognize Kickstarter United,” while top leadership presented at the company’s headquarters in Brooklyn and welcomed a new board member, according to a current Kickstarter employee who wished to remain anonymous. Kickstarter’s union would be the first white collar union at a major tech company in the United States.
It’s hard to ignore the similarities between the objectives of a dystopian board game about worker rebellion under monopoly capitalism, and Kickstarter employees’ own struggle to unionize. The ironies have not been lost of the game’s creators: The two groups behind the game, the TESA Collective and Jobs With Justice, have expressed solidarity with Kickstarter’s union.
“Many workers at Kickstarter are currently working to organize a union and have faced opposition from Kickstarter management,” the creators write on their crowdfunding page. “This Kickstarter campaign completely supports the efforts of the workers, as we rely on the labor that runs this platform!”
"We fully support our staff's right to decide for themselves if they want a union," a company spokesperson told Motherboard. "Our staff members have expressed starkly different opinions on unionization over the last seven months. A secret-ballot election will fairly and democratically resolve this debate and ensure that all voices are heard."
Within the first day of the campaign’s launch, the creators raised over $12,000 of the $22,000 goal. The premise of the game is that the richest company in the world, HappyCorp, releases a plan to transform Mercury City into an entirely corporate run metropolis, privatizing everything from schools to sidewalks, and abolishing all public services, the minimum wage, and unions. Workers must organize across sectors to save the city.