Kickstarter United OPEIU 153 Negotiation A Successful Severance Package For Laid-Off Workers.

by Olly MacNamee

One of the many downside to this pandemic will be the knock on to the global  economy and the resulting job loses that will occur across many, many sectors. And, we know it’s already started with comic shops going bust, creators being told to down pencils and other scare stories.

One of the first companies to announce planned layoffs were Kickstarter, who have been previously labelled as very anti-union, with reports, in the past, of two employees allegedly losing their jobs with Kickstarter for trying to organise a union. But no more it would seem, as a hastily organised union has met with Kickstarter management and come out with a rather success severance package. As an ex-union representative myself, who has had his fair share of such negotiating meetings, I can tell you it can be tough. To walk away with anything is something, but these people have managed to create a decent outcome from a bad situation.

So to the people behind the Kickstarter United (Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 153) I salute you for your negotiations that now sees any laid-off employees – up to 40% of the workforce let’s not forget – get a pretty good deal, given the current climate. But, rather than simply summarise this and steal their thunder, I’ll let you read their full statement in full below:

Statement from Kickstarter United

On Monday, April 20th, Kickstarter management announced that they were planning company-wide layoffs of ~40% of our workforce The bargaining unit was faced with the prospect of involuntary layoffs with two to three weeks of severance per year of employment in the midst of a global pandemic

Kickstarter United, a mere two months old, swiftly came together to work towards an agreement that protected our unit. After two weeks of bargaining, we negotiated a severance package that we are incredibly proud of, which has been unanimously ratified by KSRU.

The package prioritizes extended severance payments and health insurance coverage, and we were inspired to see dozens of our highest-paid colleagues volunteer to take layoffs in order to save jobs and increase payouts for lower-paid bargaining unit members. We also negotiated additional terms that are previously unheard-of in tech severance agreements, fulfilling another of our longstanding goals: moving our industry forward and demonstrating the necessity of organizing in tech.

The terms we won for our 86-member bargaining unit include:

  • Four months of severance pay for all laid-off employees, both voluntary and involuntary.
  • Continuing healthcare coverage increased by salary: four months for our higher-paid colleagues, and six months for those who make less than the bargaining unit’s median salary.
  • Recall rights for a full year, so that if an eliminated position becomes open again in the future, qualified laid-off workers will have priority consideration in filling it.
  • A release from the non-compete and a modification of the non-solicitation clauses included in our original hiring agreements—an allowance unprecedented in tech that will enable our members to pursue new avenues of employment unfettered.

We are devastated to lose so many of our colleagues, who take with them their institutional knowledge, unceasing passion, and relentless dedication to the progressive ideals of our company. But as we move forward, Kickstarter United will still be here. We will continue to uphold Kickstarter’s mission to foster creative work, and we look forward to further demonstrating worker solidarity as we negotiate our first collective bargaining agreement.

This experience has shown us how crucial it is for tech workers to unite, to leverage our collective strength, and to focus on lifting each other up and protecting one another. Kickstarter United is committed to standing alongside workers everywhere, helping to bring our collective visions for a fairer, more just world to life.

It’s not ideal, but I’ll chalk this up as a little bit of good news to round the weekend off with. Something tells me we may very well be one of the few sites carrying this success story, so do tell your friends and spread the word!

Olly MacNamee

A unashamed DC Comics fan and sometime teacher for over 20 years! I got lucky and found the escape hatch. Now, I just read and write about comics all day long. Co-host of the ICE-Cast podcast and one third of the brains behind Birmingham's street art and graffiti festival High Vis Fest.

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