FAQ About Recent Events at Kickstarter
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We shared a message from Kickstarter’s CEO to our community about recent events and the leadership’s response to them. We have also put together this FAQ to help clear up any questions about this.
We originally published this FAQ on September 27, 2019, and we’re updating it as necessary. Last updated October 3.
Will Kickstarter's leadership voluntarily recognize the union?
Kickstarter fully supports our staff’s right to decide if they want to unionize. Our staff members have expressed starkly different opinions on unionization over the last six months. A secret-ballot election run by the National Labor Relations Board will fairly and democratically resolve the internal debate and ensure that all voices are heard. We will recognize a union if our staff chooses that path in an NLRB-certified election.
The organizing effort here has been complicated by the fact that some supervisors have been involved in the organizing process. This is highly unusual. It creates an obvious risk that employees will feel pressure from their supervisors, which is why it’s not allowed under labor law. We’ve received complaints from staff members about this.
Two weeks ago the union organizers urged the staff to pursue “a fair, anonymous, and democratic election.” That should be the next step. We have a responsibility to protect the rights of all of our staff members in this process. It's their right to decide if there should be a union at Kickstarter, not ours.
What if there is an election and the staff votes to unionize?
If an election is called, Kickstarter’s leadership will do all we can to ensure that it is carried out in a fair and fully democratic way. And if a majority of the staff in an appropriate bargaining unit votes in favor of a union, we will fully respect that choice and negotiate in good faith toward a collective bargaining agreement.
What does Kickstarter’s leadership think about the idea of a union at the company?
As we told the staff in May, we don’t think a union framework is the right tool to fix Kickstarter’s problems. We think that the company is better positioned to overcome its challenges, serve its mission, and do right by its employees and community without this framework. As a public benefit corporation, and a small but mighty 160-person company, Kickstarter is already set up in a way that reduces the pressure to chase profits and keeps us focused on our mission: helping to bring creative projects to life.
The organizers have not yet clearly communicated the problems that they believe a union could address, and how a union would fix them. This has made it more difficult to determine how this union would benefit Kickstarter.
Why would the leadership take a side on the unionization question?
We feel it’s appropriate for us to have an opinion on the issue, and some staff members asked us to share our views. We can provide a perspective that is important for employees to consider, given our duty to balance the interests of our creators, backers, current and future staff, shareholders, and our future as an organization. But we have made absolutely clear to the staff that the final decision is in their hands, and that we will of course respect the outcome of an election.
Is Kickstarter retaliating against union organizers?
Kickstarter has not fired or retaliated against anyone for union organizing. We recently terminated two employees, and we understand how that would raise concerns given their roles in the organizing effort. But that involvement had nothing to do with their terminations. We will be providing documentation of the reasons for these terminations to the National Labor Relations Board.
It’s worth noting that since March we've given raises to 14 people who have been public about their support for a union, and promoted three of them.
As the company’s staff debates this question, what is Kickstarter’s leadership doing?
Clearly the decision isn’t ours to make. But we do have an important role to play here. We can create a space where the rules around organizing are followed, one where staff members can make a decision that is well-informed and entirely their own, free from inappropriate pressure or personal criticism. That’s what we’ve aimed to do in the six months since the unionization effort was announced, and what we will continue to do.
At times this has been a difficult role to play as tensions among the staff have run high. We’ve tried to tread a path that gives the staff room to make this important decision for themselves.
How has Kickstarter’s leadership responded to concerns raised by the staff since March?
Kickstarter’s leadership has taken steps this year to improve communication, transparency, and trust in the organization. Some of these initiatives were in the works before the organizers announced their effort. Here’s some of what we’ve done:
- A commitment to a more transparent salary framework. We've shared an explanation of our salary bands for engineers with that team, and by the end of the year we'll roll out an updated salary band framework to the full company.
- Mandatory training for all staff in unconscious bias, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination, along with training on how to keep bias out of the hiring process.
- Regular sharing of the company’s financial performance with the entire staff.
- An improved biannual performance review process with a clear framework for raises, promotions, and feedback on areas for improvement.
We’ve also focused on fostering more transparent and open communication internally, including open Q&A sessions at the end of our all-company meetings, regular email communication from the CEO on the focus and direction of the company, and ‘fireside chats’ with senior leadership.
What are working conditions like for Kickstarter’s staff?
We use market data to determine salaries for all of our employees, ensuring that we are paying fairly and consistently based on people's experience, skills, and responsibilities. We offer all of our staff members 18 vacation days a year, and we also close the office for a week in July and a week in December. We offer four months of paid parental leave for all new parents, education/wellness/bike stipends, time off for creative and volunteer work, fully paid medical/dental/vision coverage, a flexible work-from-home policy, fresh produce from our rooftop garden, company lunches on Thursdays, and what may be the most beautiful office in all of New York City.