Kickstarter’s new union rules give staff greater control over platform moderation

One of the main reasons for unionizing seems clear.

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Labor unions have so far had a pretty clear purpose: making sure that workers receive fair or better pay, benefits, and enjoy better and safer working conditions.

In the tech world, workers are among the highest-paid in any industry, with their skills highly in-demand, so it seems on the face of it that they would have little or no reason to unionize.

However, there still are sound reasons to try to introduce collective bargaining power into this high-pressure environment that glorifies overtime and often puts the forced arbitration clause in employment contracts – to name but a few.

But that’s not the whole story, because as it turns out, some tech workers see unionizing as a means to achieve more control over the content on the platforms that employ them.

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Take, for example, Kickstarter, the leading US crowdfunding platform, whose employees have now formed a union that is setting some expected, but also some surprising goals for itself. 

NBC News reports that Kickstarter workers on Tuesday managed to form the first union in the tech industry.

Tech companies – giants and others – fight against unionizing mostly to avoid losing money through the raised cost of doing business.

But now it seems they will also be challenged for control over how that business is run.

The newly formed union, Kickstarter United, will send its committee to negotiate with the company’s leaders not only about equitable pay, but also, “diversity in hiring and gaining a say in company decisions about how the platform is moderated.”

Union organizer Clarissa Redwine said the goal is to be able to stand up to Kickstarter’s management if it is perceived as “failing the community.” 

Kickstarter United will fight to allow workers to have a role in “critical product decisions without fear of retaliation,” and issues around the handling of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

The process of setting up the union took a year and a half, along with accusations that Kickstarter was firing those involved in organizing it – though the company denies this.

CEO Aziz Hasan said Kickstarter supported Tuesday’s vote that he said came in a fair and democratic process.

It will be interesting to see how and if this development affecting a minor player in the industry reflects on Big Tech.

Kickstarter has, in the past, rejected a comic from Mike Miller, after not liking the negative way in which the gang MS-13 was portrayed.

Activists have also unsuccessfully tried to cancel the board game “Reality Check: The Game of Privilege” as it mocked woke culture. 

While Kickstarter kept the board game listing active at the time, would the same listing have survived in the age of these new union rules?

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Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]