Kickstarter's vote to approve a union may throw the tech sector into a tailspin.
Employees at the Brooklyn, New York-based platform, which helps people raise money for projects, voted 46 to 37 to unionize this week--a move that could prompt employees of other tech companies to unionize.
Historically, unions protected blue collar and government workers fighting for higher wages, better benefits, and more flexible work hours, Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya, a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Hill. "This action seems to be motivated primarily by more moral issues," added Nedzhvetskaya, who studies employees in the tech sector.
In other words, tech employees are no longer just looking out for their own paycheck.
The drive to unionize at Kickstarter began with a comic book. Employees thought the Always Punch Nazis comic book, which started as a project that needed funding, fit their standards; management did not. This conflict started the drive to unionize. Even though the employees won and the book stayed up, it led to the recent vote.
It's unclear what voice the Kickstarter employees will have, as the union contracts haven't been written and agreed upon by the company and the new union. And, as The New York Times points out, this may not solve the original problem: the desire to set business policy.
It could even work against individual workers. One employee, who opposed the union effort and who asked not to be named because some dissenters had been harassed online, said that Kickstarter pays well, and that some employees worried a contract might hamper them from engaging freely with leadership. It was also unclear whether a union would give employees sway over business decisions, since traditional union contracts cover wages and hours, not corporate strategy.
Do You Need to Worry About Unions?
It would be easy to say treat your employees well and you'll stay union-free. But there's no guarantee that that will be the case. This is a huge win for tech unions, and organizers may move on to other tech businesses.
But, if you want to avoid unionization, it really is the best idea to treat your employees well and listen to them. Listening doesn't always mean taking their advice, but making sure your employees feel heard can go a long way toward maintaining control over your business.