CWA files unfair labor practice charge against eBay’s trading card subsidiary

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has filed an unfair labor practice charge against eBay-owned TCGplayer on behalf of workers at the trading card marketplace. The organization says TCGplayer supervisors and managers, including founder and CEO Chedy Hampson, illegally surveilled union activity in recent weeks.

Workers at TCGplayer are trying to unionze and this week, a supermajority filed for a union representation election. If they're successful, they'll form TCG Union/CWA, which will be the first union within eBay.

The CWA claims that TCGplayer higher-ups have walked the floors of the company's authentication center in Syracuse, New York. It says the supervisors and managers were taking note of employees who wore clothing or badges that identified them as supporters of the union drive. "This conduct constitutes unlawful surveillance of union activity and further created an impression of surveillance designed to interfere with, restrain and coerce employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the National Relations Labor Act," the CWA said in a statement.

The workers renewed their attempts to form a union after eBay bought TCGplayer late last year in a deal worth up to $295 million. They previously tried to organize in 2020, but withdrew their union election petition a few days before the vote. The CWA says that TCGplayer thwarted those efforts by bringing in a union-busting firm and running "an intense anti-union campaign where workers were regularly ordered to attend captive audience meetings and disparaged by management in company communications."

Engadget has contacted TCGplayer and eBay for comment.

CWA files unfair labor practice charge against eBay’s trading card subsidiary

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has filed an unfair labor practice charge against eBay-owned TCGplayer on behalf of workers at the trading card marketplace. The organization says TCGplayer supervisors and managers, including founder and CEO Chedy Hampson, illegally surveilled union activity in recent weeks.

Workers at TCGplayer are trying to unionze and this week, a supermajority filed for a union representation election. If they're successful, they'll form TCG Union/CWA, which will be the first union within eBay.

The CWA claims that TCGplayer higher-ups have walked the floors of the company's authentication center in Syracuse, New York. It says the supervisors and managers were taking note of employees who wore clothing or badges that identified them as supporters of the union drive. "This conduct constitutes unlawful surveillance of union activity and further created an impression of surveillance designed to interfere with, restrain and coerce employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the National Relations Labor Act," the CWA said in a statement.

The workers renewed their attempts to form a union after eBay bought TCGplayer late last year in a deal worth up to $295 million. They previously tried to organize in 2020, but withdrew their union election petition a few days before the vote. The CWA says that TCGplayer thwarted those efforts by bringing in a union-busting firm and running "an intense anti-union campaign where workers were regularly ordered to attend captive audience meetings and disparaged by management in company communications."

Engadget has contacted TCGplayer and eBay for comment.

Workers at eBay-owned trading card marketplace TCGplayer are trying to unionize

More than 280 workers at TCGplayer, a marketplace for trading card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, are trying to unionize. A supermajority of the workers have filed for a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board. If their efforts are successful, they'll form the first union at eBay, which bought TCGplayer in 2022 in a deal worth up to $295 million.

Employees of several card and tabletop companies have unionized, including Card Kingdom, Bellevue Mox Boarding House, Noble Knight Games and Paizo. The TCGplayer workers are similarly trying to organize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which has also worked with severalvideo game studios in their unionization attempts.

“We are ready to unlock the full potential we know TCGplayer can have. By forming a union, we are able to support each other, customers, and sellers to create the best TCGplayer for all of us," Jennifer Bonham, a shipping generalist at TCGplayer, said in a statement. "We are incredibly passionate about our work, but passion can only get us so far. We want to see our collective health and well-being thrive because for many of us, this is the best job we have ever had."

The workers are organizing as TCG Union/CWA and are all employed at the company's authentication center in Syracuse, New York. They each play a hand in ensuring card shipments meet quality standards and that they're accurately completed.

The workers are seeking an end to pay caps; pay rises to account for inflation and cost of living increases; and "a fair and comprehensive sick leave and absence policy that does not punish people" for issues outside of their control. Moreover, they're demanding inclusive career advancement opportunities; fair and transparent hiring practices; clearly defined job roles and expectations; and the resources and training needed to do their jobs. On top of that, they're asking for a seat at the table, along with "just cause and clear grievance and discipline procedures, applied equally to management."

This isn't the first time that the workers have attempted to unionize, as Polygon notes. They tried to do so almost three years ago with the Service Employees International Union. However, just days before the scheduled vote, they withdrew the petition. The eBay acquisition is said to have reignited the unionization drive.

"We have received notice that a petition is being filed by the Communications Workers of America labor union asking the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a vote on union representation," a TCGplayer spokesperson told Engadget in a statement. "We have not seen that petition by the National Labor Relations Board, nor have we had the chance to review it. We respect an employee’s right to choose or to decline union representation, and acknowledge this is a big decision. Our commitment to our employees during this time is to ensure they have the information needed to make an informed and confidential choice."

Engadget has contacted eBay for comment.

Workers at eBay-owned trading card marketplace TCGplayer are trying to unionize

More than 280 workers at TCGplayer, a marketplace for trading card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, are trying to unionize. A supermajority of the workers have filed for a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board. If their efforts are successful, they'll form the first union at eBay, which bought TCGplayer in 2022 in a deal worth up to $295 million.

Employees of several card and tabletop companies have unionized, including Card Kingdom, Bellevue Mox Boarding House, Noble Knight Games and Paizo. The TCGplayer workers are similarly trying to organize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which has also worked with severalvideo game studios in their unionization attempts.

“We are ready to unlock the full potential we know TCGplayer can have. By forming a union, we are able to support each other, customers, and sellers to create the best TCGplayer for all of us," Jennifer Bonham, a shipping generalist at TCGplayer, said in a statement. "We are incredibly passionate about our work, but passion can only get us so far. We want to see our collective health and well-being thrive because for many of us, this is the best job we have ever had."

The workers are organizing as TCG Union/CWA and are all employed at the company's authentication center in Syracuse, New York. They each play a hand in ensuring card shipments meet quality standards and that they're accurately completed.

The workers are seeking an end to pay caps; pay rises to account for inflation and cost of living increases; and "a fair and comprehensive sick leave and absence policy that does not punish people" for issues outside of their control. Moreover, they're demanding inclusive career advancement opportunities; fair and transparent hiring practices; clearly defined job roles and expectations; and the resources and training needed to do their jobs. On top of that, they're asking for a seat at the table, along with "just cause and clear grievance and discipline procedures, applied equally to management."

This isn't the first time that the workers have attempted to unionize, as Polygon notes. They tried to do so almost three years ago with the Service Employees International Union. However, just days before the scheduled vote, they withdrew the petition. The eBay acquisition is said to have reignited the unionization drive.

"We have received notice that a petition is being filed by the Communications Workers of America labor union asking the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a vote on union representation," a TCGplayer spokesperson told Engadget in a statement. "We have not seen that petition by the National Labor Relations Board, nor have we had the chance to review it. We respect an employee’s right to choose or to decline union representation, and acknowledge this is a big decision. Our commitment to our employees during this time is to ensure they have the information needed to make an informed and confidential choice."

Engadget has contacted eBay for comment.

YouTube accused of using return-to-office policies to thwart union organizers

YouTube Music contractors in the Austin area who voted to unionize are accusing their employers of abusing return-to-office policies to stifle labor organizers. The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that YouTube parent Alphabet and staffing firm Cognizant are using an abrupt return-to-office move, due in February, to punish remote workers, many of whom are reportedly pro-union. Some also live outside Austin. Managers have also been sending work to other offices to "chill" union organization efforts in Austin, according to the complaint, while a supervisor purportedly made implicit anti-union threats.

While the workers are contracted, they claim Alphabet and Cognizant represent a "joint employer." If so, Alphabet would be responsible for working conditions and have to negotiate if the Austin-area team votes in favor of a union.

We've asked Alphabet and Cognizant for comment. In a statement to Bloomberg, a Cognizant spokesperson claims staff were "fully aware" of an eventual return to the office before the petition to unionize, and that it has "repeatedly and consistently" told employees about its return-to-office policy since December 2021. Those contractors who willingly left the Austin area and can't come back to in-person work can also be "considered" for other work at Cognizant, the spokeperson says.

This isn't the first increase in tension between Alphabet and pro-union contractors. In spring 2022, Washington state Cognizant employees working on Google Maps warned they would go on strike over an allegedly unreasonable return-to-office schedule. Cognizant pushed back the return by 90 days. At Google, meanwhile, many cafeteria workers quietly unionized during the pandemic as they sought better conditions.

The row comes as Alphabet is cutting 12,000 jobs worldwide in the wake of rough economic conditions and dropping profits. While that figure only covers direct employees, it reflects pressure to slash employment costs. That, in turn, may set up conflicts with pro-union workers seeking better pay and benefits.

YouTube accused of using return-to-office policies to thwart union organizers

YouTube Music contractors in the Austin area who voted to unionize are accusing their employers of abusing return-to-office policies to stifle labor organizers. The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that YouTube parent Alphabet and staffing firm Cognizant are using an abrupt return-to-office move, due in February, to punish remote workers, many of whom are reportedly pro-union. Some also live outside Austin. Managers have also been sending work to other offices to "chill" union organization efforts in Austin, according to the complaint, while a supervisor purportedly made implicit anti-union threats.

While the workers are contracted, they claim Alphabet and Cognizant represent a "joint employer." If so, Alphabet would be responsible for working conditions and have to negotiate if the Austin-area team votes in favor of a union.

We've asked Alphabet and Cognizant for comment. In a statement to Bloomberg, a Cognizant spokesperson claims staff were "fully aware" of an eventual return to the office before the petition to unionize, and that it has "repeatedly and consistently" told employees about its return-to-office policy since December 2021. Those contractors who willingly left the Austin area and can't come back to in-person work can also be "considered" for other work at Cognizant, the spokeperson says.

This isn't the first increase in tension between Alphabet and pro-union contractors. In spring 2022, Washington state Cognizant employees working on Google Maps warned they would go on strike over an allegedly unreasonable return-to-office schedule. Cognizant pushed back the return by 90 days. At Google, meanwhile, many cafeteria workers quietly unionized during the pandemic as they sought better conditions.

The row comes as Alphabet is cutting 12,000 jobs worldwide in the wake of rough economic conditions and dropping profits. While that figure only covers direct employees, it reflects pressure to slash employment costs. That, in turn, may set up conflicts with pro-union workers seeking better pay and benefits.

Amazon workers strike in UK for the first time

Amazon union workers in the UK are striking for the first time over wages and what they call "severe" working conditions. They've rejected what they say is a "derisory" £0.50 pay raise (62 cents) and are demanding an increase to £15 ($18.48) an hour. 

A 98 percent majority of GMB union workers at Amazon's Coventry fulfillment center voted in favor of the "historic" walkout and announced a strike date of January 25th earlier this year. Of 1,000 workers at the plant, 300 are unionized and expected to participate in the action. 

Amazon told Engadget in a statement that the size of the strike is "only a fraction of 1 percent of our UK employees." It added that pay has increased 29 percent since 2018 and that it made a one-time £500 payment to help workers with inflation. "Employees are also offered comprehensive benefits that are worth thousands more — including private medical insurance, life assurance, subsidized meals and an employee discount, to name a few."

However, two employees interviewed by the BBC said Amazon's offer last August of a small pay raise to between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour was a "smack in the mouth" considering the company's profits and high inflation. "These people had worked two years through the pandemic, that had seen Amazon's shares go through the roof, they had seen the profits just become unimaginable," Darren Westwood told the BBC

They also decried the company's work culture, saying Amazon's warehouse robots "are treated better than us." Westwood said that employees are monitored constantly and questioned for any idle time lasting a few minutes. He also noted that some employees work 60 hours a week to make ends meet.

In April of 2022, workers at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse voted to become the first in the US to join a union, and Amazon's appeal failed last week. The company recently announced that it would eliminate 18,000 jobs, the majority from its retail and recruiting divisions. It has been frequently been accused of poor working conditions, notably after a warehouse collapsed in a tornado, and also faced criticism over anti-union activities

Update 1/25/2023 5:18AM ET: The post has been updated with Amazon's statement to Engadget.

Amazon workers strike in UK for the first time

Amazon union workers in the UK are striking for the first time over wages and what they call "severe" working conditions. They've rejected what they say is a "derisory" £0.50 pay raise (62 cents) and are demanding an increase to £15 ($18.48) an hour. 

A 98 percent majority of GMB union workers at Amazon's Coventry fulfillment center voted in favor of the "historic" walkout and announced a strike date of January 25th earlier this year. Of 1,000 workers at the plant, 300 are unionized and expected to participate in the action. 

Amazon told Engadget in a statement that the size of the strike is "only a fraction of 1 percent of our UK employees." It added that pay has increased 29 percent since 2018 and that it made a one-time £500 payment to help workers with inflation. "Employees are also offered comprehensive benefits that are worth thousands more — including private medical insurance, life assurance, subsidized meals and an employee discount, to name a few."

However, two employees interviewed by the BBC said Amazon's offer last August of a small pay raise to between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour was a "smack in the mouth" considering the company's profits and high inflation. "These people had worked two years through the pandemic, that had seen Amazon's shares go through the roof, they had seen the profits just become unimaginable," Darren Westwood told the BBC

They also decried the company's work culture, saying Amazon's warehouse robots "are treated better than us." Westwood said that employees are monitored constantly and questioned for any idle time lasting a few minutes. He also noted that some employees work 60 hours a week to make ends meet.

In April of 2022, workers at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse voted to become the first in the US to join a union, and Amazon's appeal failed last week. The company recently announced that it would eliminate 18,000 jobs, the majority from its retail and recruiting divisions. It has been frequently been accused of poor working conditions, notably after a warehouse collapsed in a tornado, and also faced criticism over anti-union activities

Update 1/25/2023 5:18AM ET: The post has been updated with Amazon's statement to Engadget.

Blizzard support studio workers drop union bid (updated)

One Activision Blizzard studio won't form a union, at least not in the near future. The Communication Workers of America (CWA) says it's withdrawing its petition for a union vote at Blizzard support studio Proletariat, which is currently working on World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. As Kotakunotes, a CWA spokesperson claims Proletariat chief Seth Sivak saw employees' unionization move as a "personal attack" and held meetings that allegedly "demoralized and disempowered" the team enough to prevent a fair election.

The pro-union group, the Proletariat Workers Alliance, said in December that it had majority support. Activision Blizzard declined to willingly recognize the union, though, forcing an election through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It's not clear how much support the vote has now, but Proletariat engineer Dustin Yost says in a statement that the union-busting meetings "took their toll."

We've asked Activision Blizzard and the CWA for comment. There are no immediate indications the CWA plans to resubmit the petition or file a complaint with the NLRB over the alleged anti-union tactics. Yost says he still feels a union is the "best way" to get industry representation.

Staff at Activision Blizzard's Albany studio and Raven Software successfully unionized last year despite accusations of anti-union tactics from the publisher. However, those campaigns were limited to quality assurance testers. Proletariat Workers Alliance hoped to unite the entire studio except for management, which was considerably more complex. According to an Axiossource, some teammates felt the unionization push was too quick and didn't give them the time to understand the consequences.

This doesn't rule out a union at Proletariat or other Activision Blizzard teams. With that said, it comes as workers across the tech space seek to unionize, including at gaming giants like Microsoft's ZeniMax. Developers and testers don't feel they're getting fair working conditions, and they're increasingly willing to speak out on the subject.

Update 1/24 4:44PM ET: The CWA reiterated its stance in a statement to Engadget. Blizzard said it "appreciate[d]" the decision to withdraw the petition, and maintained that it "welcomed" the opportunity for employees to vote.

Blizzard support studio workers drop union bid (updated)

One Activision Blizzard studio won't form a union, at least not in the near future. The Communication Workers of America (CWA) says it's withdrawing its petition for a union vote at Blizzard support studio Proletariat, which is currently working on World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. As Kotakunotes, a CWA spokesperson claims Proletariat chief Seth Sivak saw employees' unionization move as a "personal attack" and held meetings that allegedly "demoralized and disempowered" the team enough to prevent a fair election.

The pro-union group, the Proletariat Workers Alliance, said in December that it had majority support. Activision Blizzard declined to willingly recognize the union, though, forcing an election through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It's not clear how much support the vote has now, but Proletariat engineer Dustin Yost says in a statement that the union-busting meetings "took their toll."

We've asked Activision Blizzard and the CWA for comment. There are no immediate indications the CWA plans to resubmit the petition or file a complaint with the NLRB over the alleged anti-union tactics. Yost says he still feels a union is the "best way" to get industry representation.

Staff at Activision Blizzard's Albany studio and Raven Software successfully unionized last year despite accusations of anti-union tactics from the publisher. However, those campaigns were limited to quality assurance testers. Proletariat Workers Alliance hoped to unite the entire studio except for management, which was considerably more complex. According to an Axiossource, some teammates felt the unionization push was too quick and didn't give them the time to understand the consequences.

This doesn't rule out a union at Proletariat or other Activision Blizzard teams. With that said, it comes as workers across the tech space seek to unionize, including at gaming giants like Microsoft's ZeniMax. Developers and testers don't feel they're getting fair working conditions, and they're increasingly willing to speak out on the subject.

Update 1/24 4:44PM ET: The CWA reiterated its stance in a statement to Engadget. Blizzard said it "appreciate[d]" the decision to withdraw the petition, and maintained that it "welcomed" the opportunity for employees to vote.