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Tech by VICE

A Fired Kickstarter Organizer Is Trying To Unionize Tech Workers Using Kickstarter

“This kit is passed between coworkers as an act of solidarity and a signal that there is room to organize at your company.”

by Lauren Kaori Gurley
Nov 12 2019, 7:23pm

Clarissa Redwine

In early September, the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter fired two union organizers in 8 days. One of them was Clarissa Redwine, who considered her termination to be a blatant act of retaliation for organizing what could become the first union at a major tech company in the United States.

Although Redwine lost her job, she has not given up her vision. Today, she launched “Solidarity Onboarding,” a new project designed to help workers unionize the tech industry—using her former employer’s platform.

A collaboration between current and former organizers at WeWork, Google, Facebook, and other tech companies and coalitions, the project consists of an onboarding kit (booklet, pin, pencil, sticker) for tech workers interested in unionizing. “This kit is passed between coworkers as an act of solidarity and a signal that there is room to organize at your company,” the project states.

“Imagine the mirror image of a company's onboarding kit but for the tech labor movement,” Redwine told Motherboard. “The focal point of this onboarding kit is a booklet of anti-worker statements. It's a collection of common talking point companies use to dissuade employees from taking collective action. Think of it as a union-busting artifact passed across companies from worker to worker."

Within four hours of the project’s launch, Redwine raised over 3 times her goal of $1000.

The kit’s booklet includes a collection of real anti-union quotes from tech CEOs—including one from an email Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan sent to his employees in September, in response to the firings of Redwine and another union organizer: “The union framework is inherently adversarial. That dynamic doesn’t reflect who we are as a company, how we interact, how we make decisions, or where we need to go.”

Another page includes a statement from an Amazon anti-union training video: “Our business model is built upon speed, innovation, and customer obsession—things that are generally not associated with a union. When we lose sight of those critical focus areas we jeopardize everyone’s job security: yours, mine, and the associates.”

The project arrives during a moment of unprecedented organizing and activism in the traditionally “apolitical” tech industry that seems to be gaining momentum by the week. In recent months, contractors at Google have successfully unionized, and YouTube users have a launched a union drive. Last week, WeWork employees formed a coalition to protect workers from layoffs. Other forms of employee activism have spread from tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon to smaller firms like GitHub, Chef, and Tableau.

While the irony will not be lost on most people that a fired Kickstarter organizer is using her former anti-union employer’s platform to spread a pro-union message, this seems to be exactly Redwine’s goal.

“Kickstarter is a Public Benefit Corporation obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on society,” writes Redwine. “The platform and team have a stated commitment to supporting creative projects that bring people together and challenge the status quo. There is no better place for a project dedicated to collective action.”

"Clarissa’s creative project is, of course, welcome on our platform," a spokesperson for Kickstarter said. "Kickstarter is a place where creators can share their ideas with the world and find people who want to support those ideas. We also welcome the continued dialogue among our staff members about the idea of a union at Kickstarter. We unequivocally support our staff’s right to decide the unionization question for themselves."

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Tagged:
labor
unions