In Support of Unionizing Kickstarter Workers
A downloadable letter
Open Letter in Support of Unionizing Kickstarter Workers
I’m Lucian Kahn, a tabletop game designer with an upcoming October Kickstarter (Visigoths vs Mall Goths), and one of the original organizers of the Kaplan ESL Teachers Union of NYC in 2012. Our campaign to unionize our workplace was successful and we did negotiate a contract for improved employment conditions, despite being the first recognized bargaining unit for teachers in the for-profit language industry in the United States, and despite persistent and manipulative attempts by the corporation and local management to suppress our legal right to organize. I’m writing this public letter to tell you and others that unionizing your workplace, even in the face of great challenges, is possible and worthwhile.
The corporation and your local managers may try to intimidate you, guilt-trip you, confuse you about your legal rights, gaslight you, corner you, spread misinformation to you about unions and the process of unionizing, and otherwise try to prevent you from exercising your legal right to collective bargaining — that’s what Kaplan did to us (in fact, I filed a report with the National Labor Relations Board about it). Try to remember that none of these actions against you are about you personally— it’s not about the quality of your work or how much you care about Kickstarter’s creative mission. These are long-standing anti-union tactics of corporate control, and they’ve been like this for over 100 years. There are law firms and consulting firms that specialize in training corporations in these union-busting tactics. The good news is that you still have a legal right to hold an election and vote in favor of unionizing. Having a union will grant you legal protection for entering into collective bargaining with your employers and negotiating better working conditions.
When I found out about the wrongful firing of Taylor and other Kickstarter United organizers yesterday, I tried to find out what I can do to help, because I was in a similar situation at Kaplan just 7 years ago. I saw Kickstarter United’s tweet that you remain in support of artists using Kickstarter to fund our creative projects, and that you’re NOT calling for boycott of Kickstarter at this time (https://twitter.com/ksr_united/status/1172511951282483200). I also reached out to Taylor for advice on whether I ought to switch my October crowdfunding campaign to a different platform or continue as planned, and he advised me to follow Kickstarter United’s call to action: NO need to boycott until the union says so (https://twitter.com/oh_theogony/status/1172641695302914049). Taylor also suggested that I write you this letter.
I’m writing you now in solidarity with your decisions about how to conduct your campaign to unionize. I and all friends to workers should follow your lead in the coming struggle, because you know what the situation is like on the inside. Additionally, as an outsider who has experienced a similar situation, I think your decision to focus now on securing a pro-union vote is strategically sound, since boycotts are usually more effective as an escalation strategy after unionizing, if management later tries to stall or obstruct contract negotiations.
If you work at Kickstarter, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I’m not an expert in union organizing because I’ve only done this once, but I’m open to sharing my experiences with current staff if it will help you in any way. Stick together and stay strong!