FAQ About Recent Events at Kickstarter
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This FAQ provides information about the unionization effort at Kickstarter from the perspective of the company's leadership. It was originally published on September 27, 2019, and we’re updating it as necessary. Last updated December 6, 2019.
What’s been happening with the organizing effort at Kickstarter?
Kickstarter’s leadership unequivocally supports the staff’s right to decide if a union would benefit them. On October 30, the union organizers here announced their intention to move toward a secret-ballot NLRB election. We believe this is the fairest way to resolve the internal debate over unionization. An election is likely to happen in the coming weeks.
The leadership is close to signing a neutrality agreement with the organizers. Under this agreement, the leadership will strictly limit its communication with the staff on union matters. We will be available to answer questions, but we won’t initiate any discussions of our views. The agreement also requires the organizers and the leadership to refrain from making any public statements about unionization to press or on social media during the election period. And the organizers and leadership will determine the makeup of the bargaining unit before an election.
In November, in response to staff demand, non-managerial employees at Kickstarter held two open forums to talk about their experiences at the company and their views on the issues here. Kickstarter’s leadership paid for the services of a neutral moderator that the staff selected, and managers were asked to stay out of the building.
This demand for dialogue makes clear that there is no consensus here on the unionization question. Our support for these forums was consistent with our approach over the last eight months: We have worked to give our staff the space and time they need to decide this issue on their own. Regardless of the decision they make, we remain committed to building a workplace where everyone feels supported and heard.
What if the staff votes to unionize?
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. For staff members who want to make an informed decision, we can provide a unique perspective, 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.
Has Kickstarter retaliated against union organizers or supporters?
No. We fired two employees in September, 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 have provided extensive 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 eight months since the unionization effort was announced, and what we will continue to do through an election period.
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.
Here are some ways the leadership has supported this process:
- Bringing in an impartial outside expert on unions for an information session with the staff. Managers were not permitted to attend.
- Providing training for managers with our outside counsel on how to respect the rules around organizing efforts.
- Allowing the organizers to hold events in the office.
- Providing the time and space for staff members to hold two open forums to talk about their experiences and their views on the issues here. Kickstarter’s leadership paid for a neutral moderator selected by the staff, and no managers were present.
- Signing a neutrality agreement that strictly limits its communication with staff members on union matters.
Why did Kickstarter's leadership say it wouldn’t voluntarily recognize the union?
Our staff members have expressed a range of opinions on unionization over the last eight months. A secret-ballot election will fairly and democratically resolve the internal debate and ensure that all voices are heard.
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.
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.
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. [Update: We’ve postponed the introduction of this framework due to legal restrictions ahead of a potential election.]
- 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 ‘open houses’ with company leaders.
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 26 vacation days a year. 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.
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