eBay is the latest company to be hit with unfair labor complaints as this year’s hot labor summer continues amid strikes, threats of strikes, and workers all over the country organizing for better working conditions. The complaints were filed on behalf of workers at TCGplayer, a company eBay acquired in 2022 that’s known for selling and authenticating trading cards from games like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon, and Magic: The Gathering. The complaints allege that after workers at TCGplayer won their union election back in March, management of eBay and TCGplayer has refused to acknowledge the union and engaged in tactics designed to impede or delay workers’ ability to negotiate for a fair contract.
“My colleagues and I haven’t had a cost-of-living raise in 3 years. We are losing sick time and face constant changes at work that impact our ability to be successful,” said Briana Thomas, a member of the TCG Union-CWA and part of its organizing committee in a press release from the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
In an exclusive interview with The Verge, Thomas spoke about the issues workers have had since winning their union election five months ago.
“Back in March, the majority of my coworkers and I voted in favor of the CWA representing us,” Thomas said. Since then, Thomas explained that eBay and TCGplayer have filed several appeals challenging the election while also refusing to recognize the union amid the appeals process, stymieing TCG Union’s ability to negotiate for a fair contract.
“They have refused to give us our rights to status quo. Our Weingarten rights. They refuse to recognize us as a union. They refuse to acknowledge the fact that [the union has] been certified even if we present them with certification,” Thomas said. “So they are just continuing to make all these changes and refusing to work with us and refusing to follow their legal right to sit down or their legal responsibilities to sit down and bargain with us at the table.”
Though the TCG Union-CWA was formed just this year, workers were set to vote on unionization back in 2020. According to Thomas, before the 2020 vote, TCGplayer management made promises to improve benefits and implement better pathways to promotion.
“They asked us to give them a year to deliver on all these promises,” Thomas said. She said that workers were given a raise, and the union vote was withdrawn.
“We haven’t gotten a raise since that one in 2020. And then things have just gotten worse.” Two years after the withdrawn vote, eBay acquired the company for just under $300 million.
In addition to refusing to recognize the union or meet union members at the bargaining table, Thomas said that eBay and TCGplayer have tried to further erode union support through intimidation tactics and by retaining Littler Mendelson, a notorious anti-union law firm known for its work against organizers at Starbucks and Apple.
“We’ve had to deal with lots of captive audience meetings,” Thomas claimed. “We had to deal with them quite literally demonizing those of us that wanted the union. They told us to call the cops on our coworkers if they made us feel uncomfortable. They spread lies about how we were showing up at people’s houses and harassing them. They tried to perpetuate this idea that we were doing this maliciously.”
The unfair labor complaints further allege that eBay and TCGplayer have:
- refused to recognize and bargain with the union;
- refused to provide information relevant to collective bargaining requested by the union;
- refused to afford Weingarten Rights to employees in accordance with NLRB regulations;
- implemented unilateral changes to various terms and conditions of employment, while refusing to negotiate with the union regarding those changes in violation of status quo rules
TCGplayer head of communications Madeline Martinez said the company is “committed” to meeting its legal obligations around bargaining.
“TCGplayer’s priority is, and always has been, to build a workplace culture that gives team members a voice and opportunity to actively shape their future – and the future of the business,” Martinez wrote in an email to The Verge.
As labor movements in video games and other gaming-adjacent industries continue to gain momentum, most of the coverage has been centered on winning union elections. However, that is just the first in a series of steps toward a union’s ultimate goal: a collective bargaining agreement that results in a fair contract. According to Thomas, that goal has been threatened by eBay and TCGplayer.
“People are getting angry,” Thomas continued. “They’re angry because they’re afraid. We are afraid that they are going to continue drawing this out.”
Update July 31st 12:28 PM ET: Added statement from TCGplayer.