Kickstarter employees officially unionized Tuesday, marking a first for an industry that’s plagued with accusations of toxicity, gender inequity, and discrimination. The historic 46-37 vote marks the first time full-time, white-collar tech workers have formed such an alliance.
After an 18-month battle with the company, management will now formally recognize Kickstarter United. The union is organizing with the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153.
A committee of union members will now negotiate with managers to address a series of concerns, including pay equity and hiring diversity.
VIDEO: Signs of a toxic work environment
Tensions have been mounting internally at Kickstarter since 2018 when several employees disagreed with co-founder Perry Chen’s decision to remove a comic book from the site called “Always Punch Nazis.”
According to Slate, right-wing news outlet Breitbart claimed the project violated the Kickstarter terms of service, and Chen agreed — but, according to NBC, workers became concerned the company was giving in to the demands of “right-wing trolls.”
“What Kickstarter employees are organizing a union for is the agency to challenge management when management is failing the community,” Clarissa Redwine, one of two union organizers who claim they were fired by the company in September, told NBC.
“Workers want to be able to participate in critical product decisions without retaliation, to change how the company handles sexual harassment, how it addresses gender discrimination, and they want to take on future challenges with a healthy power structure.”
Union organizers Redwine and Taylor Moore say they were fired about a year and a half ago and that other employees left due to internal tensions. NBC reports at least one other union organizer was laid off, but Kickstarter says it did not fire employees because of union activity.
“We support and respect this decision, and we are proud of the fair and democratic process that got us here,” Aziz Hasan, the CEO of Kickstarter said in a statement.
As of now, Kickstarter remains the sole unionzed tech company, but employees at other corporations have organized to protest company dealings.
In July 2019, thousands of Amazon workers staged a strike on Prime Day, one of the company’s busiest days of the year, to protest inhumane working conditions and low pay at company warehouses.
Then in November, 20,000 Google employees participated in a global walk-out to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment, gender, and racial discrimination claims, prompting the company to release a statement, promising changes to its policies.