Kickstarter Union

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Paul
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Kickstarter Union

Greetings everyone!

I'm several weeks later in posting this than I wanted, and for that I apologize!

For those of you who are unaware, there has been a lot of news in the last few weeks (and, really, for the last few months) about Kickstarter. Specifically, a large number of Kickstarter employees are attempting to form a union, Kickstarter United, which would be one of the first unions at a major US tech company. Unfortunately, the management of Kickstarter has been engaging in a lot of classic, questionable union busting behavior. I am not going to craft a detailed analysis of the situation, but I wanted to make a few high-level comments.

1) In a statement on September 27th, Aziz Hasan, CEO of Kickstarter, made the statement that "The union framework is inherently adversarial" as an explanation for why he did not support his employee's creation of a union. While I have no doubt that the relationship between Kickstarter employees and management is adversarial, this statement is extremely misleading. Union organizing is the end result of a process, almost inevitable at large firms, in which the management maximizes corporate profits at the expense of labor. In the vast majority of cases, if your employees want to form a union, you already have an adversarial relationship with them. Stonewalling union formation will only make the relationship more adversarial, not less.

2) A number of people and companies have called for a boycott of Kickstarter. At present, the Kickstarter employees themselves have not called for a boycott (for, I would suspect, fairly sound strategic reasons), so I would defer to their judgement in this regard. However, this whole situation has made launching a project on Kickstarter quite a bit riskier than it otherwise would be (since at this point you'll inevitably lose some backers over the union-busting issue).

3) As a business owner with a M.A. in Political Economy, I am quite convinced that arguments that employment will go down significantly if businesses are forced to pay their employees a living wage (whether through unions or a high minimum wage) are BS. Yes, I am completely aware of what the graph looks like when you draw supply and demand curves for labor with a minimum wage (it suggests that the employment of minimum-wage workers will decrease). However, I find this flawed from a theoretical perspective (because the minimum-wage labor market is a) not a perfect information market, b) displays monopsonistic characteristics, and c) because the demand for minimum wage labor is highly inelastic), from an empirical perspective (for example, this study from the NY Fed), and from a personal perspective (GTG is constructed in such a way that we have a $15 minimum wage, with most employees making significantly more. This means that owners/managers make less than we could if we paid our lowest-paid workers less, but we believe that there are many reasons this is the correct choice.)

Anyhow, that's a quick summary of some of my thoughts on the matter. If anyone would like to discuss this further in long form, you can shoot me an email (paul@greaterthangames.com), or meet up with me at a convention


“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” ~Obi-Wan Kenobi

Powerhound_2000
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.  I guess this begs the question as to whether GtG will launch new Kickstarters or using another platform for crowd funding of a new project?


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Paul
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@Powerhound_2000

That is a complicated question currently, as I mention a bit above. For purely selfish reasons, it is convenient that we did not plan to launch any campaigns for about 6 months anyhow - we have enough on our plate as is!


“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” ~Obi-Wan Kenobi

Powerhound_2000
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Hopefully there is some resolution to this before you launch a new crowd funding campaign.  


Crush your enemies, drive them before you, and laminate their women! - Guise, Prime Wardens #31

 
MindWanderer
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For anyone reading this who's unaware, though, Handelabra has chosen to crowdfund Spirit Island Digital over on IndieGogo.


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Belle Sorciere
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Thank you for this detailed explanation, Paul. I'm glad to hear GTG stands with workers.

fenianb
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Thank you for weighing in on this, Paul, your analysis, and your pro-living wage stance.

People have to do what they feel is right, but I suggest listening to what the workers forming the union need and ask for. At this time they are specifically not calling for a boycott. That may change but for now folks might want to ease up on the 'down with Kickstarter' rhetoric. If you want to follow the workers you can monitor their twitter at  https://twitter.com/ksr_united

Twitsan
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I was completely shocked when I learned about bring paid for being a citizen this year at GENCON. I was happy trading just my time for a badge. After speaking to a contact from gencon I was shocked to learn that greater than games is one of a very few companies that is now doing this. So while I can't speak for all the citizens I would like to say thank you for being an amazing company!

Rabit
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Definitely appreciate the thoughts on this, Paul! :-) I can only say that I'm very glad I don't have to make a decision like this. I know Handelabra is managing the risk of the situation by moving to IndieGoGO, but it doesn't seem like they're doing it as a boycott, as they haven't mentioned anything behind the scenes. 

For those who might be interested, Restoration Games had a great response on this around why they are not going to move off Kickstarter that I was impressed with. 

And yeah, the folks at GTG are awesome. :-D 


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arenson9
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Appreciate your post, Paul, and am feeling very supporttive of your opinions and choices.


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Trajector
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Thanks for posting a really interesting read, Paul, and I'm glad that Greater than Games has found a solid way to walk the walk.

fenianb
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