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Kickstarter Workers Just Asked for Union Recognition Despite Pushback From CEO

Days after Kickstarter's CEO Aziz Hasan said he would not voluntarily recognize a union at the company, employees sent him a letter requesting voluntary recognition.

by Lauren Kaori Gurley
Oct 2 2019, 6:40pm

Kickstarter

Employees at Kickstarter asked the company on Wednesday to voluntarily recognize their union—following a month of internal upheaval, including the firing of three crucial members of the union organizing committee. The company’s union, known as Kickstarter United, would be one of the first white collar tech unions in the United States.

“Kickstarter United requests voluntary recognition of our union with Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153,” said a letter addressed today to the company’s CEO Aziz Hasan and senior management. “Forming our union has not been a quick or superficial process because we’ve intentionally set the bar high to maximize inclusion and make sure our co-workers who have demonstrated support have done so with eyes wide open.”

The request for union recognition follows a September 27 email from CEO Hasan to his employees stating that the company would not voluntarily recognize a union if asked. Hasan denied union-busting, writing that the firings were performance-related, but said that a union framework at Kickstarter would be “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,” he continued. “We believe that in many ways it would set us back, and that the us vs. them binary already has.”

If Kickstarter refuses to recognize the union, organizers will have to request a National Labor Review Board (NLRB) hearing to authorize a union election. The election is typically held 30 days after approval from the NLRB.

Following their request for union recognition, Kickstarter United sent an email to employees, “Although our CEO has felt the need—twice—to publicly state that he will not grant us voluntary recognition, up to this point, we have not asked. We know that the time had come to do so, and we are hopeful that senior leadership will grant us recognition.”

Clarissa Redwine, one of the workers fired in September who was active in union organizing, told Motherboard that Hasan’s email from last week “galvanized the community and was yet another example of why a union would be good for Kickstarter’s health.” The company claims that they fired Redwine over job performance issues, though she told Motherboard that they did not provide her with “concrete” suggestions for improvement.

“As Aziz has said before to staff, he believes in action over words—so do we,” Redwine said. “It’s not enough to speak about giving workers a voice, companies need to be willing to give structure to that promise. Unions are a proven tool for protecting workers who speak truth to power.”

Redwine, along with another fired worker and union organizer, Taylor Moore, filed a federal complaint against Kickstarter with the National Labor Review Board on September 26 for retaliating against union activity, and asking for the reinstatement of their jobs. In response to today’s request for union recognition, Redwine told Motherboard “I’m overwhelmed by the bravery of my former coworkers. Kickstarter United has acted as a collective every step of the way and held true to their values.”

Moore, the second fired worker, called out the company’s CEO in a message to Motherboard about the request for recognition, “The world is watching, Aziz. Do the right thing. Recognize the union.”

Kickstarter employees first announced their plans to unionize in March shortly before co-founder and former CEO Perry Chen stepped down from the company.

Kickstarter told Motherboard in response to today’s request for union recognition, “Kickstarter fully respects and supports our employees’ right to decide if union representation serves their best interests. As we told our staff back in May, an election run by the NLRB is the only way to fairly and democratically resolve the internal debate on this issue and ensure that all employees are heard. We will of course recognize a union if our staff chooses that path in an NLRB-certified election.”

“The union organizers themselves pushed for ‘a fair, anonymous, and democratic election’ in a message to the staff just two weeks ago,” the Kickstarter representative said. “We have a responsibility to protect the rights of all of our staff members in this process, which is why a fair, anonymous, and democratic election is the right path forward.”