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A Win For The Good Guys

'Bout damn time, too.

Approximately half an hour ago, Kickstarter United won their election for union representation. I’m doing something I never do an posting this in an incomplete form, so I can get the word out but also go and think about the broader implications. Update to come.

Okay, update time. Things that have occurred to me since the news broke:

  • This is a foot in the door; Kickstarter’s a small company¹, but one with an outsized brain share in the public mind, largely because Kickstarter (uniquely) has a direct relationship with people that much of tech doesn’t.

    With the big internet companies — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google — you end using their services because they’re unavoidable, not because you want to. Other tech behemoths — your Microsofts, Oracles, etc — are at a remove, with your usage of them typically intermediated by somebody else that gets your ire when things don’t work². Tech companies related to the gig economy have lots of act-alikes (if Uber’s too creepy for your liking this week, there’s always Lyft — and your opinion on them will probably reverse in another week), and/or they only offer a service that already exists in the real world, but may be marginally more convenient.

    But Kickstarter is a tech company that people deal with an intermittent, voluntary basis; when you can afford something that looks cool, you go for it, and they’ve got a reputation for at least trying to get the most obvious scammers out, whereas their competitors either let in bullshit unbuildable projects³, or allow for less-than-goal funding, which practically invites cash grab scams. People use their discretionary income for Kickstarter, and have a relationship unlike any other tech company.

    So over the next year or so, as Kickstarter and the Kickstarter United reps hammer out their new relationship and find new ways of moving foward, as tech workers across the country start to see how their labor and interactions with the money end of things can interact in new ways, where will this spread? How many new startups that hit a certain size will have to factor in this is how large we think we can get without a union forming as part of their due diligence with venture capital?

    Nor will this necessarily stop with what we think of as pure tech workers. Once the coders behind — let’s say GrubHub as an example — unionize, how long before their very put-upon gig workers get the idea? How long before games companies can no longer persist in their cruel march of years-long crunch followed by mass layoffs when their two nearest analogues — tech companies like Kickstarter, and artistic endeavours like unionized animation shops — show that there’s another way?

    How long before the FAANG Five can’t come down on employees who object to their involvement in undermining democracy, caving to totalitarian regimes, enabling ICE, selling garbage facial recognition to the Pentagon/law enforcement, undermining efforts against climate change, and other things that offend the most basic ethical framework?

    And how long after the high-income coder population is even partially unionized before people making a hell of a lot less money start wondering why they don’t get to have a union? I truly believe that this could be the turning point that starts the overall levels of union membership in the country towards the first upswing since the ’50s.

  • On the flip side of all those rosy futures, PR and law firms that specialize in union busting are celebrating today; they just got to up their rates because a bunch more employers are calling them in a panic.
  • Creators can breathe a sigh of relief. A lot of them were fully prepared to walk away from Kickstarter as a platform, and some were holding off on starting projects, waiting to see how this went. That last probably wasn’t necessary (see the next item), but I’m sure it was noticed. Given the failure of Drip 2.0 to launch, there really isn’t an alternative to Kickstarter.
  • Everybody that announced you were boycotting Kickstarter (despite the fact that the union organizers specifically asked that you not do so unless they deemed it necessary to bring management to the table), you’ll be coming back now, right? I’d hate to think any of that was performative outrage.

Spam of the day:

Magnetic GSM Mini SPY GPS Tracker Real Time Tracking Locator-Device

As I am neither an evil obsessive, nor a potentially murderous, controlling partner with a restraining order on him, I have no use for your stalker wares. Kindly go away, dispose of all your inventory in a large fire, then sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done.

¹ Fewer than 90 employees took part in the vote.

² What up, Tech Support?

³ At least in our universal of physical laws. I swear, it’s only a matter of time before somebody on Indiegogo promises an inertialess drive or overunity power generator.

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