The staff at the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter voted to join a labor union Tuesday, part of a rising wave of workforce activism in tech.
The staff voted 46 to 37 to join a chapter of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, the company said.
“We support and respect this decision, and we are proud of the fair and democratic process that got us here,” the company’s CEO, Aziz Hasan said in a statement. “Our mission has been common ground for everyone here during this process, and it will continue to guide us as we enter this new phase together.”
Though small in numbers, the union carries symbolic weight. Waves of activism have coursed through the world of tech in the last few years but they have largely stopped short of union campaigns.
Kickstarter is a Brooklyn-based company which helps artists, designers, and writers crowdsource funding for creative projects, and its workers have gone much further than other tech firms by voting to unionize. The effort’s organizers have said they hope to be an example for other companies.
The decision follows more than a year of charged emotions at Kickstarter as the staff began to organize.
The campaign was sparked in the months after managers made the decision to take down a funding page for a comic book, called “Always Punch Nazis” after it had been written about by the right-wing site Breitbart. Many staff members felt that the company was folding in the face of political pressure.
But it grew contentious over the months, and the tension spilled into public view with the firing of two union organizers in September. The two employees filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that their rights as employees to organize had been violated.
The company denied that their dismissals had anything to do with their organizing activities, saying they were fired for performance issues. The NLRB complaint is still pending.
The union campaign also generated fierce debate within the company’s staff. Two employees told The Washington Post in the fall that organizers’ aggressive tactics had felt like harassment to some workers at the office. The company’s leadership has defended the way it conducted business and treated its employees.
The dismissals drew a slew of news coverage after they were first reported by Slate.
Union proponents at the company said they hoped that the union would give the staff more of a say in decisions about pay, hiring and discipline.
“I’ve always felt it was going to be a close vote,” Hasan said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I’m happy we’re in a place now where we have a resolution. What we have now is certainty and I think that’s great.”
Hasan said that he was looking forward to engaging the unions on its concerns.
“This ultimately doesn’t change much for the company in terms of how we drive towards our mission,” he said. “I’ve seen, in the last 12 months, an exceptionally passionate group of people. For our mission, I’m really confident in the way we’ll move forward.”
Organizers for Kickstarter United, as the union is calling itself, did not provide comment immediately.
Union participation, as a percentage of the American workforce, has declined for decades, to around 10% currently — about half of what it was 40 years ago.
But Kickstarter’s effort has raised hopes among more progressive tech workers that formal organizing could grow. In September, a group of 80 contract workers opted to unionize at a Google office in Pittsburgh.
Those efforts have been joined by others that have shown a renewed appeal for unions in small but highly visible industries, like digital media and nonprofits.