Kickstarter employees voted to unionize today with 46 people voting for the union and 37 against. The decision makes Kickstarter employees the first at a major tech company to unionize. The employees are represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), and the unit is made up of 85 engineers, directors, analysts, designers, coordinators, and customer support specialists.
“The tech sector represents a new frontier for union organizing, and OPEIU is excited to represent one of the first tech groups to successfully win collective bargaining rights and to be part of the labor movement’s efforts to improve the livelihoods of tech employees everywhere,” said Richard Lanigan, OPEIU president and OPEIU Local 153 business manager, in a press release about the news.
The employees, under the name Kickstarter United, announced plans to unionize last March. At the time, the organizers said they wanted a union to “promote our collective values: inclusion and solidarity, transparency and accountability; a seat at the table.” Kickstarter’s corporate side pushed back against the union, however, and required a vote, rather than voluntarily recognizing the unit. The company argued that managers had been inappropriately involved in the organizing process and therefore a vote was needed.
Since asking for a vote, the company fired two staffers associated with the union formation, and they filed a complaint with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB), claiming wrongful termination. Kickstarter said the firings had nothing to do with the union and instead were related to performance reviews. Those complaints haven’t been resolved yet.
Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan tells The Verge that he doesn’t see the vote “changing the mission or vision” of the company. He didn’t have a sense of timeline for when a contract might be established, and he also wouldn’t speak about what the union means for the tech industry at large.
“I’m just squarely focused on the team today and how Kickstarter continues to pursue its mission and that’s what I have a responsibility to,” he says. “At the end of the day, no matter what the result of the election is, this is our moment to move forward, and the mission has really been something that we’ve really seen people really passionate about, and that is the common bond we have. That is sort of the energy and optimism that I carry as we go forward from here.”