Kickstarter, the popular crowd-funding website used by everyone from comic book self-publishers and indie game developers to TV shows and films, found itself in hot water last week when it was accused of firing two union organizers, a violation of United States labor laws. Their response to the scandal suggests that the criticism is taking its toll.
Clarissa Redwine, a member of the outreach team and one of the lead organizers of the Kickstarter union, was let go a week ago this past Thursday. She, along with Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), the union organizing the drive, then filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, the body within the federal government that oversees union organizing. The NLRB complaint related to a nondisparagement clause Redwine says Kickstarter wanted her to sign that the complaint claims was illegally broad.
Then last week, another lead union organizer from the outreach team, Taylor Moore, was also fired. According to reporting from Slate, Moore had completed a performance improvement plan and Redwine had never been placed on one before their respective firings. A performance improvement plan is a formal document that lays out deficiencies in an employee’s performance, ways to improve those deficiencies, and goals and timetables for improvement that is kept on file with Human Resources, meant as much to protect the company from claims of unfair firings as they are to improve the employee’s job performance. Firing an employee for participating in a unionization drive is illegal under American labor law.
Cracks are starting to show in Kickstarter’s public facing communications. When I reached out to Kickstarter to express displeasure with the company’s perceived union-busting activities, I told the company that I could not envision supporting them if the company does not correct its mistake and rehire the organizers. Their response was to repeat their boilerplate denial that claims the firings were not for organizing, and then to give me instructions on how to delete my Kickstarter account.
According to Kickstarter’s own statistics, more than 8500 comic book projects have been made possible by the platform, with over $94 million raised to accomplish that. That’s out of the nearly 170,000 successfully funded projects across creative mediums, which account for more than $4 billion in funds raised. No word yet if any creators have pulled projects to object to Kickstarter’s actions. Text of Kickstarter’s response is quoted below.
Thank you for writing in. We appreciate your concern.
Kickstarter’s leadership has respected and upheld its employees’ right to organize and the rules around that process, and continues to do so. To reiterate the company’s statements elsewhere: no Kickstarter employee has been fired or punished for union organizing. The decision on whether to unionize is in the hands of our staff, and leadership will respect that decision. We would prefer not to share details of personnel matters, but we can assure you that recent employee departures had nothing to do with union involvement.
We value your participation in our community and we hope you will continue to be a part of it. However, if you do intend to delete your Kickstarter account, you can visit your account settings here and click the “Delete my Kickstarter account” button. Please keep in mind: account deletion is not reversible, which means that you will no longer have access to your backed projects history, including any outstanding pledges or rewards.
For more on Kickstarter’s union busting and how it might impact the comics, board games, and movies funded by the platform, stick with Den of Geek!