Engelberg Center Live!

Chapter 6: Retaliation | Part 2

Episode Summary

Three more organizers leave Kickstarter.

Episode Transcription

Welcome back to the oral history of Kickstarter’s union.  In a dark corner of Kickstarter’s company intranet, buried under FAQs about the company’s vacation policy and healthcare info, there is a single page document notifying workers of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.  This digital plaque informs workers that they have the right to organize, the right to discuss working conditions, and the right to provide mutual aid to one another. This notice to employees is a requirement, enforced by the National Labor Relations Board, as a consequence for breaking labor law.  But, because of the way US labor law is constructed, where the burden of proof is placed on workers, who are encouraged to settle out of court, allowing companies to sidestep a guilty verdict... Kickstarter’s management will never be compelled to explicitly admit that they broke labor law, and it doesn’t look like they ever will. 


The National Labor Relations Board requires three things when a union organizer files a wrongful termination charge accusing the company of retaliation for union activity.  And these three things are necessary for the NLRB to fight for a worker.  It’s called the Wright Line test, named after the 1981 case Petitioner, v. Wright Line. First, the worker needs to prove that management knew they were an organizer.  Second, the worker must prove that they experienced negative action from management after management knew they were taking part in protected concerted activity, like building a union.  Third, the worker needs to prove they were treated differently than fellow workers.  In the first few months of the union drive management didn’t have a grasp of how to navigate the rules of the National Labor Relations Act, so they made mistakes.  They fired Justine, the visible whistleblower who kicked off the collective action for Always Punch Nazis, explicitly for protected concerted activity and then they fired Sarah, one of the unions earliest organizers, without reasonable cause… but then... they got smarter and got lawyers. And they took their time. 

It's not a coincidence that all of this happened shortly after they hired those very expensive lawyers that specialize in union busting. - Alex

Part one of this episode covered the stories of two union organizers, Sarah and Alex, who were quietly forced out of the company by management after becoming key members of the union drive. In the first week of September 2019, a year after management fired their first union organizer, Sarah, and three months after they forced out the second, Alex, Kickstarter’s senior leadership took a drastic step to put an end to the organizing effort. In just 8 days at the start of September, senior leadership fired three workers with a combined tenure of 15 years at the decade-old company, including me. We made up one third of the organizing committee, the union’s most visible and active organizers. For months, Kickstarter’s leadership kept a steady drumbeat of union avoidance strategy, making notable concessions to undermine union demands and holding long captive audience meetings full of classic anti union talking points like, just give us more time, unions are adversarial, and a union will make Kickstarter less competitive.  By September, with support for the union edging up to a point where we could file for an NLRB election, management puts down the scalpel and takes a sledgehammer to the union drive.  In each case of retaliation, management targeted workers who were vulnerable.  Workers whose roles and position in the company were impacted by leadership’s poor management before the drive even started, losing core responsibilities, critical tools, or key supportive relationships.  When we zoom out and get a birds eye view of how these organizers were forced out, it’s clear management had a plan, a tried and true roadmap, and it was very effective.   We’re going to walk through three more stories of retaliation in the words of the organizers who were forced out, Taylor, Trav, and myself. Instead of looking at each story individually like we did in Part 1, we’re going to look at how each organizer’s experience, when woven together, makes the patterns in management’s strategy visible.  Starting again… back at the beginning of the union drive. 


First we need to start with Taylor’s story. 

People used to literally kill union organizers. So, you know, it could be worse.  - Taylor 

Taylor, was one of the workers who stood up to management in the collective action for Always Punch Nazis, a small comic book project that management planned to cancel after it was publicly targeted by Breitbart.

They're just cowards hiding behind this website guidelines and asking us all to go along and fucking aid and abet a Neo Nazi, fascist press campaign. I mean, you gotta be fucking kidding me. Like you're in the wrong place, not a Kickstarter.  And it's certainly not in any fucking room, I'm in. - Taylor 

Immediately after this event, in parallel with other workers at Kickstarter, he starts to organize, kicks off a series of one on ones, explicitly builds the case for a union, and opens his studio just around the corner from Kickstarter HQ to weekly union meetings.  One of his earliest meetings was with Amy, a low level engineering manager who had also joined in the collective action for Always Punch Nazis. 

I really remember him being like, you want to organize a union with me and I was like, hell yeah like let's fucking do this.  - Amy

Right around this time, Amy and Sarah, the two employees who coordinated the collective action to save Always Punch Nazis, invite me to the debrief they put together after management’s wave of retaliation and I listen to my coworkers on the edge of tears speaking out about how they were treated by management, how they were disrespected, yelled at, how their jobs were threatened.  Just after this, Taylor reached out and I joined the union.

In October 2018, while they’re at a creative conference called XOXO, Taylor has lunch with Trav, another long time Kickstarter employee who led several large initiatives. They talk about something that they had worked closely on together, the company’s most promising new product, a subscription funding platform called Drip.  They both knew how much work each had poured into helping make Drip a success.  As head of Outreach for Comedy and Podcast projects, this subscription model was perfect for the creators Taylor supported.  He shares how much time and energy he’d invested in Drip, a platform he believed was critical for the creator community: 

Oh my gosh, I remember you know the night before launch I was staying up. I think I was up till 4am in the library with the engineers and the designers that were there working down to the last minute. I was on the phone with a crater in LA. Trying to get them to, like, change this one setting on their account and they're just high as hell. Like they cannot follow instructions at all. And I'm like, okay, man. I've given you all the best I can do. Like I just trust you like If you could change this one thing before tomorrow. That would be fantastic. It's 4am I gotta go. It's like, Oh, I thought you were in LA, it's 4AM there. Yeah, you should go to bed, dude. - Taylor

Trav and Taylor had just learned that, after months of leadership mismanaging and starving the product of resources, Drip would be completely dismantled and, over a meal at XOXO, they talk about the day management delivered the news to Trav, the main person responsible for managing the sizable community of creators who were already using the platform to support their work.  Here’s Trav recounting that day just like he did across the table from Taylor at XOXO. 

I’m sitting there eating my lunch. It's a Thursday, as I'm eating, I get approached by the VP of Engineering And says, oh, you know, I just do have a minute. I'd like to be able to give you some updates on the drip product. And in my head I'm thinking of what. What could it be, we've been here before, and pulls me into a meeting room and he basically says to me we'll just kind of be fully sun setting the initiative all together. We've decided that this week is the moment that we should let all the users on the platform know this information. I was like, I just have to ask, how long have you known about this shutdown. And how long are you giving me the only person who has any contacts to any end users of this product. And who is fully responsible for communicating all decisions about this product to them, how long are you giving me to figure that work out. And how long have you known that this work was coming. And this was the moment that I realized that you know all of leadership had this knowledge for weeks at this point.  And rather than relaying that to me the one person who is responsible for actually sharing that message. Writing it drafting it, you know everything, rather than sharing that with me at the time that they were alerted. For no reason other than being on a power trip and being able to gatekeeper information they kept this for me and then gave me one working day to spit out a plan for how we were going to communicate this incredibly nebulous irresponsible handoff.  It's just felt like a slap in the face a huge slap in the face. And, you know, there's a moment where you just kind of look Around and you say well fool me twice. Shame on me. Something's got to be done.  - Trav 

Trav and Taylor didn’t know it yet, but the death of Drip, a product management had positioned as the most important initiative at Kickstarter, would eventually be used by management to threaten their jobs after they became visible union organizers. By the time they fly home to Brooklyn, Trav is fully on board and ready to organize.  In the weeks following, the expanding circle of early organizers starts to build structure and values for the nascent union. Several members begin to ramp up outreach one on ones with fellow coworkers.  Along with other dedicated organizers, Taylor and Trav brought in a significant number of signatures and were taking on more and more outreach conversations, increasing the risk of their union activity getting back to management. 

There's one day where I woke up and I'm looking at people come in and I'm like talk to them, talk to them talking to them tomorrow, talk to them yesterday, talking to them in an hour.  - Trav

The union is building momentum and early organizers start to get a sense of how fellow workers are interested in using collective power. Everything’s running smoothly until mid January 2019, when a week before performance reviews, Sarah, one of the union’s most active organizers, was abruptly fired.  That makes her the first union organizer fired by management.  And just a week later, organizers noticed unusually negative feedback injected into their otherwise glowing reviews.  One organizer who had recently stepped up union outreach to other workers  was denied an expected promotion and told by her manager that, while she was a model for other people on the team, she would not be promoted because she was quote, “too negative” and needed to build trust with upper management. Taylor had a similar experience.  Management denied him a raise for not having enough creators launching Kickstarter projects, knowing that for the last year he had been encouraged to focus on finding creators for the new subscription platform, Drip, the product that was now in the process of being sunset.

If anyone's in accounts or sales like listening to this anyone like isn't client management, you know, This is a big deal. I lost everything. All those relationships dead end. Right. And then I had to refocus on the core platform Kickstarter, you know, the Kickstarter project that you know and love. So I had to basically start from scratch. Now, the rule of thumb. On the Kickstarter outreach team is that if you just meet someone for the first time, or send them a cold, cold or warm email for the first time. From that moment to them launching a project is about six months. Right, if you're just getting out there and trying to help people to like, all right, you got this project. How can Kickstarter help all those things takes about six months. That's the average lead time from zero to launch project so In October, I had to completely start over from zero with everything. - Taylor

I also felt a bit of this vertigo when a temporary manager who had not had a single one on one with me, ever, affirmed that I was meeting expectations, exceeding all my metrics, and I quote “really stepped up this year”… but then used harsh words like “entitled” to describe my personality in the section of my review called Room to Grow.  But my review, like others in the union drive, was overwhelmingly positive so many of us let it go, knowing we were high performers and we could build a case for the promotions and raises we’d been denied by the next review cycle in June.

At this time in the union drive, management had not revealed they were aware of the union, so organizers chalked up these small but oddly negative comments in our reviews to a mix of retaliation for Always Punch Nazis and the realities of Kickstarter’s inexperienced, overtaxed senior management team.  But once we started comparing the surprising parts of our reviews and digging into the context management provided, organizers started to trace the bulk of this negative feedback… to one person.  The same person who would soon become the leader of the No Committee, a group of workers actively collaborating with management to take down the union.  At least 5 union organizers discovered they’d been disciplined or denied raises, based on reports management received from this single individual.  And then, shortly after high performing organizers received strangely punitive notes in our reviews, this individual, seemingly at the root of much of the negative feedback, was rewarded.  Management decided to have Trav, one of the most active union organizers, report to her.  

There was like a proposed management shift and I wasn't told about this. - Trav

And the way he was told about his new manager...?

Getting an email from [coworker], that was a list of all the ways that I was to behave as an employee, including crazy things like you will sit at your desk for at least two hours a day coming from, you know, an open floor plan office. You will document your worth to me and X, Y, and Z ways with, you know, a, b, and c frequency and this email coming out of the blue. And I just remember thinking to myself, this can't be for me. I don't report to this person, this is a person who has exactly the same title that I do. 

So Trav forwards this email to his manager, the VP of Community Strategy.

She slacked me almost immediately and she was like, Oh God, I'm so sorry did no one tell you I'm thinking that no one tell me what exactly that I report to you that I'm supposed to be reporting to somebody else and She said, Oh, you know, [coworker] has been really wanting a direct report. So we figured that you would start reporting to her for that and no other reason. And I'm thinking to myself… what do I have to do to get that kind of respect and privilege within this organization to just simply ask for something and have it handed to me. And you're not going to ask me if that's something that I'm okay with, you're just going to kind of pull the trigger on this and then rely on my deducing from an insane email from a person who is telling me where to literally sit in an office as news or an update of a change in my reporting structure. Get the fuck out of here, This is noones responsibility except your own. - Trav

Trav sits down with his old manager the VP of Community Strategy, and his new manager the future leader of the No Committee. And, stands up for himself. 

We immediately walked that back.  I sat down with [VP of Community Strategy] and [coworker] and said, absolutely not am I doing this.  I was not consulted. This is the person who I onboarded into this company, the person who has half the tenor that I do and has done, you know, a quarter of the work that I've contributed to this place. And this is moving me backwards in the org chart as a four and a half year employee who is responsible for all of Drip. - Trav

Even though Trav successfully retained his position in the company and management agreed the restructuring was a mistake, there were consequences for challenging management and the future leader of the No Committee. The tension from this event started a rot that management and anti-union workers quitely spread across the company.

This was this was kind of The first moment. I think in [coworker] head where she saw her career trajectory being impacted and she did not react very well to that.... I knew, I knew that there was something kind of brewing in our working relationship, and I knew that at some point that was going to manifest in a way that was going to be taken out on me, the team, the Union, but at the time I basically just said, I've got to stand up for myself....   - Trav

Right around this time, I found myself in a similar situation.  But unlike Trav, I didn’t directly stand up for myself, my more senior counterpart based in London did it for me.  She knew that I needed backup. Our former manager and every single person I worked closely with, about 5 people, had recently left the company, moved away, gone on leave, or moved to another team. My counterpart in London and I both noticed another coworker, a future member of the No Committee was picking up some of our core responsibilities, mainly mine.  After both of us tried talking to this coworker, my London counterpart went directly to management for help. And it worked, management met with this coworker to clarify their role and responsibilities.  After this things started to feel like they were getting back to normal. Management had even started having serious meetings with me about my growth path to a promotion, they thanked me for the work I’d done mentoring the newest member of our team, and vocally supported the initiatives I was leading.  But then, I started to hear from people across the company that this same coworker, a future member of the No Committee, was getting pretty vocal about how much she disliked working with me.  Management began to comment that they’d been getting complaints from this individual but told me not to worry.  This would all be relatively normal tension between workers but once management began to paint union organizers as troublemakers and bombard workers with anti union sentiment, this mundane tension between workers grew into a painful emotional weight and eventually threatened the jobs of multiple organizers. Soon, for me, Trav, and anyone else who had strained relationships with members of the No Committee, it started to feel like this animosity was spreading.

There was definite animosity... My working relationship with basically that entire team was never the same. - Trav


Just after reviews were wrapped up, organizers noticed that the recently hired Head of Community was coming from Thrillist, a neighboring Brooklyn company where unionizing workers had a notably difficult battle with senior leadership, which included this new manager.  Almost immediately, Kickstarter’s new Head of Community begins to work with senior leadership to strengthen their developing anti union strategy. Soon the union was scrambling to keep up with management’s anti union rhetoric and, attempting to counter management’s anti union messaging, organizers decide to announce the union drive to the entire company.

The day the union was announced internally, March 19th 2019, Taylor, Trav, and Alex, the active union organizer covered in part 1 of this episode and who would soon be forced out by management, were all pictured at the bottom of the company wide email as points of contact for the union, what most people would describe as members of the Organizing Committee.  Most of the day was a joyous blur.  The day flew by and in a blink we were all together at the union’s launch party around the corner from Kickstarter.  The next day, the company got our first taste of communication from the No Committee.  This was a lengthy email full of classic anti union talking points, written and sent by a handful of workers with management’s encouragement and guidance. And then, before we knew it, the entire company was reading this anti union letter in the press. It had been leaked and the leader of the No Committee suggested to the journalist who broke the story that this anti union email be printed in full. This unfortunately included the names of the three most visible members of the No Committee.  The workers who signed their names to this email, were harshly criticised online. This is when everything changed.  The social dynamics in the office dramatically shift, sides formed, and management began to use this fracture between workers to target organizers.  I felt this shift right away and started to immediately see my social status at the company plummet.

The way that I perceived it was that like, y'all are some of the most like well liked well respected mother fuckers in the company, you know, and then like with the actual coming forward of being like, you know, outright supporters of the Union, like it felt like the perception that management had towards you changed overnight. You guys went from like golden children to problem children. Literally overnight was how it felt to me especially like I remember early on in my relationship at Kickstarter, be like, Oh my God, yeah. Clarissa like Holy shit. She knows everything about D&T, she's been doing this job forever. This is like such a good category. She's the person you want to talk to about like x or y or z. And like I think that that a lot of that sort of messaging kind of stopped right like a lot of the essentially I think that the Union had a really profound impact on people's reputation.  - Karlee

After the union went public, Taylor had an important exchange with his new manager, Kickstarter’s new Head of Community, where she explicitly connects his union involvement with his performance.  This is the same manager who was hired from Thrillist after a tense union drive where management used notably anti worker union avoidance tactics.

I don't have the exact date, but my affidavit is right over my bag. Want me to go and get it? Okay hold on one second…. A week later on March 25 by [Head of Community Operations] hustles me into a side room and has a little impromptu meeting. She says that she knows I'm involved in the Union effort, which is, you know, no great mystery and she says it, you know, it actually hopes it won't interfere with my my work. - Taylor

Right at this time, I sit down with HR and the Head of Community, the same manager who had just chatted with Taylor.  Along with a wide range of fellow workers and middle managers, I had been sent a threatening email about how I was a manager and could be fired for participating in the union.  I had been asked to mentor and temporarily manage my new counterpart on the West Coast till our team hired a new manager.  Now, I knew I was not a manager, I didn’t have any of the power of a manager, but this email still scared me. So, I sat down with management and HR and told them pretty plainly that I wanted to know if I was a manager because I wanted to participate in the union. Both of these people were very new to the company and really had no context about my situation so they told me they would look into it and get back to me.  Then I told them that if I was in fact a manager, I knew that I made significantly less than my male counterpart and that would need to be rectified.  And suddenly the tone changed and… I’ll never forget the response from the new Head of Community, my new boss.  With no understanding of my performance, my tenure, my role, or my relationship to my counterpart, other than that he was older and male, she immediately responded matter-of-factly, “well you’re on different career trajectories.”  I paused and said something like, well, I think this pay discrepancy is part of a tradition of systemic sexism and I don’t think Kickstarter should take a part in that.  The conversation ended almost immediately with these two women saying they would get back to me.  Just a few weeks after the union went public, my manager starts to put off our one on ones, stops sitting with our team, starts sitting upstairs next to the leader of the No Committee, and...she puts Taylor on a Performance Improvement Plan, a PIP.

Okay, so at that at that time. My manager who previously came from Thrillist where she also tried to bust the Union there. My manager [Head of Community Operations] sits me down and says we're putting you on a performance plan... Okay, and To be clear, again, this is just how naive i was i looked because she was brand new, Julie was pretty new. Right. She didn't really know how the actual work worked right outreach is hard to nail down anyway. It's kind of its own beast at Kickstarter. So I was giving her the benefit. I was like, you know, I totally understand why you're doing this. But just so you know, like, and I turned my computer around and I showed her the spreadsheet that I used for, you know, to keep track of where all my contacts and traders were in the pipeline process. I was like, look at all this, like, this is all coming next month, you know, it's been, I've been working since October and like the new wave of my creators is coming soon. And you know if according to the timeline of this performance plan you want to put me on like I am going to blow all these goals, out of the water without having to work very hard. She was like, okay, great. I'm like, Okay, great. Like, this is going to end wonderfully for both of us. Like, you're going to see that I'm I give a shit. I'm competent and I'm gonna, you know, and I'm going to see you. Welcome. This information. And become a good manager.  - Taylor 


 Performance improvement plans, although they sound like a tool to give workers a path to improvement, are often used to create documentation, based on pretext, that allows management to fire an employee they are targeting.   After putting Taylor on a PIP, she pulls me into a meeting for the first time in weeks.  She tells me that she’s moving me down the org chart, putting me under my counterpart based in London until the team finds a new manager, then she proceeded to take away every major responsibility I had, everything that had been part of my growth path for years.  Then she told me that my new manager based in London would only manage my basic day to day, any discussion about my growth path would be managed one level up, by her. I walk out of this meeting and shortly after, was invited to join the union’s Organizing Committee, making me an even more visible organizer.  My face is put on the company wide emails, and I join my fellow organizers in standing up to management at captive audience meetings.

Then, management decided to make their anti union stance official by holding a captive audience meeting to declare that no matter what percentage of employees signed union cards, the company would not voluntarily recognize the union, forcing workers into the more adversarial path of an NLRB election.  Just before this meeting, my and Taylor’s boss, the Head of Community, sent a slack to our team telling us to join and that this meeting was not optional. This is the first meeting where I publicly advocate for the union.  

I think that a lot of really exciting things have happened over the past few months, and they seem very much related to collective action. Management responding to hearing that people are coming together.  How do workers, in even the tech industry in general, protect things that are exciting and meaningful to their work without collective action? - Clarissa 

This is the meeting where Taylor gets an ovation. 

Can you guarantee that Perry will not come back and do it all again.  - Taylor 

RECORDING ovation 

And in this meeting, after hours of back and forth between senior leadership and staff, our boss, the Head of Community takes the mic to compare the Kickstarter unionization process to her experience at Thrillist, praising management and suggesting that the process of unionizing is a difficult uphill climb. But before she can walk away from the mic, Trav, jumps up and pushes back about her experience at Thrillist.

Would you mind clarifying which side of the table you were on? The proverbial table, were you bargaining with… ya we’ll share a mic... - Trav

… I sat on the management side….  - Kickstarter Head of Community Operations 

By the next AllHands, our boss, this new Head of Community was elevated to Senior Leadership and traded her place in the audience for a seat on stage with the most powerful people in the company. 


Just after this AllHands, the targets on organizers’ backs started to show... to us, and the people around us.  Trav’s manager, the VP of Community Strategy started to more openly suggest that he look for another job. And this pressure from the top down, paired with management’s anti union communication strategy was impacting his ability to do his job. 

I mean, everything just started to slowly move downhill.  It was harder for me to get one on one time with my manager.  It was nearly impossible for me to launch any initiatives that had been in the works for months at the time.  I’m pretty sure that there was a two month stretch of time where every single calendar invitation that I sent trying to get time with her to discuss what I was working on, discuss how I might be able to triage and prioritize the different responsibilities from the three different jobs that I was covering… pretty sure there was at least a two month stretch where every single one of those meeting invitations was rejected, or moved, or endlessly postponed to the point where I was shackled, I couldn’t get anything done. I also was on the Creator Dev team which was largely populated by anti union advocates. Calendar invitations for meetings that I should have been a part of started to just kind of miss my inbox or disappear from my calendar.  - Trav

Right around this time, Taylor paused at one of our weekly union meetings, to let us know he had been put on a PIP. He said he was optimistic that this new manager was supportive and she would soon see that he could hit the metrics laid out in the PIP, no problem.  This is when I piped up and did something pretty stupid. I told Taylor, in this relatively open forum, not to trust our manager, that she had been unhelpful and unusually punitive in the last few weeks with me and that he should keep his guard up.  And almost immediately, our manager got wind of this and brought it up in Taylor’s next one on one. 

She said that she heard that the Union was saying that my performance plan was to retaliatory and using it as an example of what management's doing wrong as a recruitment tool for the Union and says, I'm not allowed to do that anymore that reflects poorly on her and me. Okay. Which I believe is illegal.  - Taylor

But at the time, none of us knew what she was doing was illegal so we really didn’t do anything about it. And in my next one on one, she does the same thing.  And it was a big surprise because I had a meeting with this manager on the books for weeks with the express purpose of reviewing my qualifications for a promotion. But I never get that meeting, instead, the Head of Community scraps our planned agenda and kicks off a campaign to document pretext. 

I walk into this meeting, open my laptop, navigate to our team’s performance matrix spreadsheet where I noted all the responsibilities I held, and my manager stops me to say, “this is going to be a hard conversation.”  After months of talking to me about creating a path to promotion, she tells me that it’s recently come to her attention that I need to make immediate and significant improvements.  She brings up three things that were reported to her by members of the No Committee.  First, she tells me that a coworker had reported me for sending an email to a Kickstarter creator that he thought wasn’t friendly enough.  When I explained that email was written using a macro and a standard process that everyone on our team uses, she switched gears and said that I took too long to get back to the creator.  And when I explained to her that the correspondence she was talking about had taken place over my recent vacation, she brushed aside my objection and moved on to the next point on her list. The second thing she brought up was what she called, being a team player.  She told me that I’d been reported by the leader of the No Committee, for posting an idea in slack before writing a full brief for the idea, which was not standard protocol at all.  When I told her that the head of that team had specifically directed me to post in slack knowing that I did not have a brief and showed her screenshots of our conversation, she switched gears to say that posting this idea in slack was disrespectful to the larger team because it fell outside my domain.  When I mentioned that I was specifically sharing that idea so I could estimate a potential budget for an initiative I was in charge of, she told me that she had expertise in that subject, which was not obvious at all, and I should have come to her instead. I said it was really unfortunate that earnest attempts to do my job were being framed this way.  Then she told me that it seemed like I had a problem accepting constructive criticism and that this should be a dialogue.  It was a mess.  And in the last 5 minutes, she gets to the last item on her list. Once I heard this last item, the whole meeting made sense.  She tells me that I need to work on building trust with her.  She said she had been getting reports that I was expressing dissatisfaction with my stalled discussions about a growth path and that she was upset that I’d spoken critically about what she called her management style. And again, just like with Taylor, discipline for this activity is illegal, we were legally protected when we spoke about this manager’s actions to our coworkers, but we didn’t know it.  After this meeting she sent an email saying we would no longer discuss a path to promotion, all the work I had done to build a case for pay equity was dead.  And the months that followed were a sea of this kind of feedback.  I would spend hours and hours every week defending myself and walking on eggshells all while our team was still short staffed.  

When you would say does this email like please give me your objective opinion about this email and I would say the person emailing you is fucking crazy. What are you talking about I think that, yeah. I mean, I certainly saw it affecting your ability to do your work to like feel, you know, safe and respected and productive in the workplace. I mean, and our jobs are again like so much of it is like assuring people that being part of Kickstarter is awesome. I can only imagine how tremendously difficult. That must have been for you to maintain that professional poise in those relationships, knowing how much like internal trauma, you are being dealt. - Oriana

At this point, I was working nights and weekends to make sure my performance was unimpeachable. I would regularly spend 8 hours on Sundays getting ahead and rereading messages so I didn’t miss anything.  

The bar that you set for productivity and getting work done was unrealistic. - Beau

It was exhausting and at the same time, I was surrounded by members of the No Committee that would flag anything they could. Almost every week I would hear a new mention of one of these people vocally doubting my competence and warning people not to work with me.  It was a hole I couldn’t climb out of.  Out of desperation, I started going to HR.  The first thing I sent to HR was feedback I had received from my manager about a simple slack message where I asked if we could write a blog post about how the NSF funds Kickstarter creators.  My former London counterpart, now my direct manager, who up until this point had been devastatingly silent as she watched management take moment after moment out of context, she sent me a message where she used the words disrespectful and fixated to describe a short mundane public slack thread that no one else on our team felt was out of the ordinary. I sent a screenshot of this message to HR vaguely asking if they saw anything wrong.  They said no, that this was normal, and to talk to my manager about the feedback I felt was inappropriate. And that was a huge mistake, I should have never gone to my direct manager. In this meeting I just directly told her that I thought her feedback was uncalled for and I had gone to HR for a second opinion.  She told me that she was passing along feedback from a report made by the second most visible member of the No Committee.  The same person she had helped me with just a few months earlier.  That was when our working relationship went up in flames.  At a certain point when I would get the inevitable ping from management telling me I had stepped out of line in some subjective way, I started to push back and explicitly state that this was retaliation…. And my manager’s response to this was to formally discipline me again for quote, “not assuming the best intentions of others.”  Many union organizers experienced different versions of this gaslighting from management.  

It's almost, you know, like quicksand like it works so slowly that you don't even notice it and it it like slowly. You know, a road, your, your sense of self and your, your trust in your own judgment and it's the most like insidious kind of abuse because it it really you know alters how you see the world and yourself. - AnonA

It really felt like gaslighting, at its deepest form.  Where I would walk into a meeting and the vibe of the entire room would change.  And it really started to feel sticky sweet from some angles, like, just performing that retaliation was off the table and that everything about or working relationship was ok.  And meanwhile she’s fuck’n axing my job.  - Trav

That is so hard.  That is so emotionally hard.  And [Interim Head of Design & Tech] kept acting like it was hard for her. Like it was hard for her to discipline me in these weird inappropriate ways.  And that’s ultimately the reason they fired me was that I was causing too much trouble for my managers and causing them too much work.  But the work I was causing them was to defend their discipline of me.  You know what I mean, I was like, please tell me why you’re hurting me like this. And they were saying you know, please stop asking. If you ask again, you’re out. - Clarissa

All of these experiences seem like run of the mill mismanagement until you get a bird’s eye view.  Right around this time, in mid April, Taylor was finishing his Performance Improvement Plan and he passed with flying colors.  

I did pass the PIP with flying colors and then some. I believe I hit every goal and then surpassed it. And then that quarter I hit or exceeded every single metric that my manager gave me 100% every single one.  - Taylor 

But the Head of Community celebrated his success in a surprising way.  After Taylor passes the PIP, she extends it for another month, essentially doubling the time management has to document his performance under strict scrutiny.  I’m watching all of this happen and I start to ask… I pretty much ask for a PIP.  All of the negative feedback I had received so far had been unpredictable and subjective.  I had asked over and over for metrics and the Head of Community would respond with “just trust me” or “we’ll work through this together.”  My direct manager, my former counterpart in London had been distancing herself from me and increasingly siding with management.  One day on a call with my direct manager, I asked how I could possibly demonstrate progress or get past this never ending stream of personality feedback like ‘“be a team player” and “build trust with management.”  She responded that she quote, “wouldn’t call this personality feedback.”  And I asked again how I could possibly measure performance. And she said… without blinking an eye… quote “I don’t know how we can measure these emotional intelligence issues.”  If that’s not personality feedback wrapped in dehumanizing manager speak, I don’t know what is.  That was the moment that broke me.  I stopped asking questions, I stopped pushing management to give me metrics, I kept my head down, avoided as many people on the No Committee as possible, and I made sure I was on track to exceed all of my stated performance metrics for the performance reviews in June.  I wasn’t the only one who was feeling this way.  I watched the energy drain out of Taylor and each week at our union meetings he was getting quieter and quieter.  Trav was struggling too. 

And I remember thinking, those targets are real.  And my lived experience is telling me right now that one way or another, the composition of this organizing committee and of the folks who have really been donating a lot of their time to the unionization effort,  one way or another that layout is about to change.  There are those moments when you can just so wholeheartedly listen to your gut and say something is coming. - Trav

All three of use were on track to exceed our stated metrics for Q2.  As I’m writing my self review, I get to that section called Room To Grow.  The main thing I focused on is the only thing that is trackable.  I mention that email management has been really tough since I ran two territories for about a quarter while our team was short staffed.  Relationships I had cultivated were still impacting my inbound traffic months later.  But I thought maybe I should check that assumption.  When we used Salesforce, our team had a running chart comparing the email volume each of us managed, and my previous manager frequently noted in my reviews that my territory was the most active, resulting in a unique challenge for my inbox. So, I reached out to the Head of IT and asked if it was possible to compare the inbox traffic I had before and after taking on two territories.  He responded that our data records didn’t go back far enough to compare these two eras of my inbox but that it looked like I was getting more than double the traffic of my counterparts.  I was so relieved that this wasn’t in my head and jotted down in my review that I’d checked with IT and it looked like I had a unique challenge but that I’d gotten control of it the last few months.  I didn’t mention that I had been staying on top of this by coming in on Sundays. A few days later, I got a very strongly worded email that I thought would be the final nail in my coffin.  My managers were formally accusing me of violating the privacy of my teammates.  Just to reiterate, comparison of our email activity and several other core measures of our team’s workload had been openly displayed for years and was critical for the team to understand our individual working conditions. It’s similar to how our Trust and Safety team could easily see how many tickets had been answered by each member of the team.  I immediately reached out to the Head of IT and he assured me that we had not broken any policies or violated any ethical standards. But I was so afraid. This email from management was overtly threatening.  The Head of Community ended her message to me by asking if I had anything to say for myself considering they were actively writing my review. I slacked Taylor and asked around for advice.  The consensus was that I should absolutely not accept any kind of guilt… but I was afraid not to because management had been adamant that I was incapable of accepting feedback.  I was trapped.  So I formally apologized in writing and a few days later, I walked into my review having exceeded every performance metric, and expectinging the worst.  But to my surprise, my direct manager walked through all of my achievements one by one, I had outlined them all in my self assessment but was expecting them to be downplayed.  On top of exceeding all of my metrics, every single one of my peer reviews, including one from the leader of the No Committee were very positive.

They spend 25 minutes of that 30 minute meeting telling me what a good job I’m doing, how many major projects I’d taken on. How I brought on so many amazing creators, She’s really laying it on and I get really excited and she says ya you really did a lot, you did a lot. And I was like, it felt like a lot. And I was really excited. -Clarissa

I was almost giddy as the meeting started to come to a close, it felt like all the hard work I had done on top of navigating management’s retaliation made a difference, maybe I could get past this.  In the last 5 minutes of the meeting, the Head of Community takes over, she looks down at her notes and casually says, “it’s really good to see all the work you’ve done. If I hadn't seen all of this, we’d be having a very different conversation.” This cryptic statement was far from surprising and confirmed that she had very little understanding of how much work I’d been doing and that, as I suspected, if I didn’t perform well above the level expected of someone in my role, I was done.  Then, she says, “but, for reasons we’ve discussed before like not being a team player and failing to build trust with management, I’m officially marking you as not meeting expectations and we’ll be putting you on a PIP.”  I was so heartbroken.  The only thing I could manage to say is, “how long until I get this PIP with metrics?” I had been practically begging for management to give me a way to address their concerns in a way that could be measured for months. The Head of Community responded 2-3 weeks and I walked out of the room. This entire meeting had only been a half an hour.  They had purposely kept it short to make sure there was no discussion.  So, I waited for the PIP.  For the metrics I’d been repeatedly asking for.  


Just after performance reviews, another highly visible union organizer covered in Part 1, Alex, had that tense meeting with HR and management where they continued to insist she was not a team player, undermining her manager, and incapable of accepting feedback.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the retaliation strategy management used to target us was almost exactly the same, down to repeated terms and phrases. We had both been given high marks before becoming union organizers and suddenly after we joined the organizing committee, HR and management told us both that, by not agreeing with our manager’s inappropriately negative feedback we were undermining their authority. 

I do worry that we’re going to get 3 months 6 months down the road and someone else may deliver feedback to you and you’re not going to agree with it, and it becomes the same situation where it’s very argumentative and defensive.  And I think it’s quite unproductive. - Kickstarter Head of HR

I found it to be a very worrying disparity as well, and again that is why I brought it up.  And I’ve yet to hear a better way that I should have brought it up other than, don’t.   - Alex

And that’s why I’m offering myself and [HR] to work with you on a plan to make sure that there’s alignment.  - Kickstarter Head of HR

Hypothetically speaking, how do you think I should have navigated that?  -Alex

I think we should work on your situation going forward.  - Kickstarter Head of HR

Do you think there’s any circumstances, any wording, any verbiage, that would be sufficiently non aggressive in which one could express, hey, I don’t think this feedback reflects my work? - Alex

It seems like you’re trying to pick apart every piece of this rather than having a dialogue. -  Kickstarter Head of HR

It seems like you aren’t very willing to be held accountable to the things that you’ve already said. It doesn’t seem like you’re willing to believe my, it doesn’t seem like you’re open to the possibility that I could be right and this could be a meaningful roadblock. But to my question, is there a way that I could have expressed that feedback did not match my perception of my work that would have been acceptable. Are there any circumstances, any combinations of worde in which that would have been ok? - Alex

Ya, there are, there most likely are. I think it’s also the approach and the tone that you take… - Kickstarter Head of HR

Alex quit right after this tense meeting with HR where it was clear she’d been put on a path to the door.  And I started to think it was time for me to go too but I couldn’t bring myself to leave, not when we were so close to filing for an election and I was just weeks aways from launching two more major initiatives. Three weeks go by with no mention of my PIP, my managers don’t bring it up, I have no discussions about my performance.  Then another week goes by and another and soon 8 weeks had passed since management told me I would be put on a PIP.  It starts to become clear that management has no intention of acting in good faith, they are just waiting for the moment when they can cut us loose. 

We were going through the OKR process for Q3. [Head of Community] approves my OKRs for Q3, but then a few days later dramatically raises all my targets. Like just ups ups all the numbers like dramatically raises doesn't matter I Q3 and knock out of the park. I go beyond and keep in mind, not everybody on the outreach scene was even hitting all of their goals. Not everyone was hitting other metrics, I hit or surpassed all of them.  - Taylor 

This is when I decide I need help, I need an ally with power, or at least an ally who is not trying to bust the union and take me with it.  So I reach out to one of Kickstarter’s most successful middle managers, someone who’d stood up to management multiple times and demonstrated alignment with the union.  I decided to try and recruit him to be my manager, to take over my team.  I walk with him down to the pier and tell him, look, I just need someone to give me an even playing field.  Our team has stalled the recruitment of a permanent manager, I haven’t had a true manager in a year, and I’m surrounded by the most visibly anti union people at the company. If you want the job, I think you could pitch this to leadership, gain more responsibility, help our team, and help me get my footing.  When this manager pitched this idea to leadership, they were immediately receptive.  Like I said, he was a successful manager and this expansion of his role made a lot of sense.  When he casually mentioned that he’d already talked to someone on the team about this, the Head of Community starts to, from what I heard, she starts to flip out.  She says things like, “why wasn’t I told about this?” And repeats “give me a name, I want a name.”  But this manager holds out and basically defends my anonymity.  After management discovered I was the worker who suggested it, something I openly shared in a team meeting, they immediately ask him to withdraw from consideration. Just a couple weeks after I was fired, they offered him the job and he took it.  There were so many moments like this for me, Trav, Taylor, Alex, Sarah, and many other union organizers.  Moments when it was clear management had an end goal.  Our allies, core responsibilities, reputations, performance metrics, all of the conditions that gave us strength and stability, were quietly dismantled until there was nothing standing between us and management.  So, the event that got me fired was this.  One day in early September, after 8 weeks of finding nothing to fault me on, management decided to lie and discipline me for something I did not do.  

Ya, you, you got fired for an idea that I had, was the ultimate justification.  - Beau

A week before, my counterpart mentioned it would be fun for our team to get together for an in person meeting.  It had been a while since our global team had been able to meet up and we skipped our quarterly in person meeting while we waited to hire a new team leader, which had been stalled for a year.  I said that’s a great idea, suggested we get it out in the open, and immediately wrote it on our team agenda as a topic for discussion.  Here I am rehashing this moment with my counterpart who was on the call that day. 

I said, that’s a great idea.  Let’s put it in the next team meeting agenda and we’ll bring it up to talk about.  I was the one who actually wrote it in the Google Doc and [Interim Head of Design & Tech] went in the log of the Google Doc and found out who wrote it and she was like, aw, Clarissa wrote it she must have talked Beau into saying it but it’s really her idea.  At least that’s how she presented it.  - Clarissa

But still, so what. - Beau

Right right, there’s no other appropriate place for us to bring that up.  You could bring it up in a one on one, but why? Those team meetings is where we talked about stuff like that. - Clarissa

So we get to this agenda item in our next team meeting and my counterpart shares his idea. 

This is something that makes sense to us, can we make this happen?  - Beau

The rest of the meeting was totally normal, our manager said she’d think about it and get back to us.  But the next thing I know, my manager sends me an email accusing me of quote backchanneling, manipulating my counterpart, sewing division among our team,  and undermining my manager’s authority. So I’m reading this unhinged email thinking, this is something new.  Management is not subjectively interpreting something I did.  Now, management is documenting fabrications.  I’m being formally disciplined for ideas I didn’t have and things I didn’t do. I responded to my manager that she was mistaken, that I did no such thing, and that it was very hurtful to get this kind of feedback.  Knowing it might be one of the last moments I have to stand up for myself, I end the email with this: 

This is a hard thing to say but, in the interest of our team's future health, I'm willing to face the consequences.  The way this feedback was given and the way this team discussion is being interpreted is a demonstration of an unhealthy lack of trust.  I would appreciate the same support and care that we're all trying to provide each other. - Clarissa

Immediately the Head of Community responded that she was very disappointed at what she called my continued inability to accept feedback and build trust with my managers. My direct manager who kicked off this discipline totally ghosts me…

She totally ghosted me, never responded, I slacked her several times saying hey please let’s talk I think you should be at this meeting with me and HR. And she just like, she just, ya, she just threw her hands up. It was wild. It was wild. - Clarissa

A few days later just as Trav and Taylor landed in Portland for XOXO, Kickstarter’s management calls me into a room to fire me.  In this meeting with HR and the Head of Community, they tell  me Kickstarter has decided to part ways.  I ask if this is because of the recent disciplinary email I had received a few days prior since it was the only negative feedback since my performance review 8 weeks earlier.  They told me I was being fired for two reasons, failing to build trust with my managers, and because they said my relationship with one member of the No Committee was beyond repair. This was the same person that management had helped me with in January by preserving my responsibilities, before I joined the union and they joined the No Committee.  I turned to the Head of HR and said, you know I was told I’d be given a PIP, right? And the Head of Community sitting next to him jumped in to say she’d been having meetings with me about my performance, which was an absolute lie.  I had not spoken to her at all since I was promised a performance improvement plan 8 weeks prior.  They slid a termination agreement across the table and said, after almost 4 years at the company, they were offering me one month’s severance and made sure to tell me it was generous and double the requirement.  I looked at the agreement and asked if the non disparagement clause precluded facts and they said they’d have to get back to me.  Without signing it, I closed the lid to my laptop and walked out. Then I got on the phone. 

The minute I found out you were fired, I was totally ready to quit. Literally though, I’m a couple hundred miles away in Seattle and I’m like, I am getting in the car and driving straight to Aziz and being like what in the fuck is going on because this is some bullshit. - Beau


After Taylor and Trav get back from XOXO a couple days later, we’re all expecting management to fire them immediately, and they did.  After more than six years at Kickstarter, Taylor is brought into a room with HR and the same manager who fired me a few days earlier.  As the door closes behind him, organizers get on the phone and Trav rushes into the office. 

So I remember waking up that morning, it was a Thursday, and I was getting in the shower and immediately had a bunch of calls and texts from fellow organizers.  I think maybe one from you and a few from Oriana. And they were all seemingly urgent and asking me if I knew what was going on with Taylor and if I had any insights into where he was or what was happening.  So I rip myself out of the shower and I speed up to the office and it’s pretty clear within minutes of arriving what’s going on.  That he had been pulled into a room with [Head of Community Operations] and he’s being let go.  And, it was at this moment, that I came into the kitchen, I sat down, I opened up my computer, and in one go I typed an email in a google document that’s titled for Taylor and Clarissa and starts with, Kickstarter United is under attack.  I remember the energy and my kinda rising body temperature just flooding into the keys.  It finally felt like a moment where the retaliation was made so explicit and obvious that we could finally honestly talk about it in a way that would directly address the injustices of the way management had been interacting with the union.  - Trav

As Trav writes this email, management has Taylor alone in a room where they tell him he’s fired.

I asked why and Julie says it is because I was not using streak streak is a Streak is a is software streak is a CRM, which if you're not in the business stands for client relationship manager or contact relationship manager. Which is just a way to like keep track of all the people you're talking to.  - Taylor

There were other people on the outreach team that didn't use Streak. There were other outreach people that don't use Street. It was never required. It was never a universal requirement at all and [Head of Community]. I had never ever mentioned it. I had never heard the word street come out of her mouth ever until she was sitting there telling me I was fired because I didn't use it.  - Taylor

You know when I asked them. They seem surprised. Like, I think that they weren't expecting any questions or pushback. So when I asked him that question like, why is, tell me why, like she seemed put out and she had to think for a second. And she came up with streak. -Taylor 

And so then I knew well it's the Union, and I told them I was like, you can list any Lie or reason you want about why this is happening, but all three of us know that this is because I am organizing a union and they denied. And they said, no, no, no, no. And I said, Look, I don't care. No one else is here but us you can say whatever you want. We all know that's what this is about. And then they ended the meeting. - Taylor 

And they offered me three weeks severance which Is such an insult, like working at a place for three years and then getting three weeks severance pay is a profound insult and that was so clearly like violent like that was meant to hurt me like they did that to be cruel to me right so that also made it very clear like these people are not acting in good faith. - Taylor 

Taylor walks out of that meeting with his dog Pepper and starts to round up fellow organizers. 

Taylor comes, sort of like running up with pepper and just says, I've just been fired and I have to leave the building and just sort of like walks away, and it was just like super startled and it was just like, Wait, what the, what the fuck what what has happened to like Like just a real surreal moment.  - Amy

Hey look, I just got fired, I just got canned.  I’m gonna go, I’m gonna go around the corner to Fortunate Horse. - Taylor 

I remember very clearly walking into work checking like looking at slack and because Taylor was on my team. There was an announcement from our team lead that he had this like completely bland sanitized personality list announcement that he had been let go. - Oriana 

We have we have screen grabs.  A few hours after I was fired, she sent a slack message to my whole team saying, Taylor had been on a performance plan and wasn’t measuring up to the plan. That’s not true, the plan had been over for a long time and I had passed it with flying colors.  Everyone knew about my performance plan, I was not a shy, a shrinking violate I am not.  You know, I had no compunction against talking about it with everyone.  I never found it embarrassing, especially when I kicked its ass, you know. They all knew it was bullshit and they all called her on it and she said she misspoke.  But that’s just not true, I mean, she knew she was lying, she intentionally lied, and there’s hard copy documentation of it.  - Taylor

I like I felt my stomach drop I stood up for my computer and I walked out. I just like, couldn't I felt like I was in a movie. It felt completely I felt totally untethered from reality. I like was shaking. I went walked around the block like called the people who had I called the other union organizers. I tried to call Taylor. We all we all met up To just sort of like weep together. - Oriana

As organizers gather for an emergency meeting at Taylor’s studio, home base for our weekly union meetings.  I have been fired.  Taylor has been fired.  We pass around the email that Trav had drafted to send out on behalf of the union.  But then, Trav gets a notification from management.  

I remember a team of organizers were sitting down, reading this email, you know, effectively pulling my tone back from a place of anger to a place of action.  Um, and it was at this moment that I got a slack message from [VP of Community Strategy] that said, hey, you know that meeting that you’ve been asking for for a few weeks now, I think now would be a great time to have it.  - Trav

Trav is like, yeah, I got, I just got a calendar invite from, you know, his boss saying like in Trav was like, oh, they're They're going to fire me this is this is clearly a firing move. Just and it was like, Oh, wow. They're, they're really going to do this. - Patrick

And I just remember feeling like, how dare you pitch this inevitable firing meeting, we all know what’s coming, you’re about to do to me what you’ve just done to Taylor and what you did to Clarissa a week ago.  How dare you pitch that as a job description meeting or a one on one or a work check in.  All of these meetings that I’ve been asking you for that you’ve been denying to me for weeks, now all of a sudden you have time for.  I just was pissed.  Pissed but also, immediately following those thoughts were how is this going to affect the unionization effort.  What’s coming is about to have a sever impact on the work that we’ve been doing for months.  - Trav

Trav pushes this meeting with the VP of Community Strategy off for a few hours, as long as he could to give the union time to plan. Me and Taylor decided we needed to bring as much attention to this as possible to try and slow it down.  Our plan was to let Kickstarter know we weren’t going to stay silent. Since our termination agreements included a non disparagement clause, we know this means we’ll forgo severance. We get on twitter and start letting people know that Kickstarter’s management is firing union organizers. 

It's very, very, very, very, very clear what their intentions were to get us out of the picture, because we were getting clubs. You know things had picked up since the summer, the Union was getting close to the number of signatures. We were so close. - Taylor

Hours fly by, news about the firings is getting attention on Twitter, Taylor and I are fielding calls from press, and Trav walks into Kickstarter. 

Then I walked into in an astounding way, one of the most confusing least organized meetings I’ve ever had with any members of the Kickstarter team.  And ended up being a meeting about my being fired.  - Trav

You know all the all the meeting rooms are glass so you can usually see if someone's in a meeting and I remember just seeing travel in a meeting with like two other people. One of them from HR and I was like, oh, this is they're really going to fire Trav that's that's shocking. - Patrick

When they sit Trav down for the meeting that was meant for his termination, they do not bring down the hammer like they did with me and Taylor.  And this time, Kickstarter’s CEO, Aziz, has joined the meeting. 

I sit down. And the first thing that Aziz says to me is, I want to be very clear this is not a conversation about letting you go or anything. That said we've been trying really hard and just can't find a place at this organization for your skillset. And you know, it, wasn't this moment that I thought, what do I really have to lose in standing up for myself here? It's already been made very clear that they don't value me as an employee, that this is a retaliatory meeting. And, um, that no matter how they're going to pitch it to me, this is a red carpet that ends with a one-way exit out of this, organization. Um, so, you know, I started pushing back and saying, it's hard for me to believe that you've spoken to everyone at this organization and that they've told you, there's no place for me, particularly when I'm doing these three jobs already. And what's most upsetting is that I have been excluded from that conversation. Um, kind of explicitly, you know, I have been emailing [VP Community Strategy] and slacking [VP Community Strategy] for weeks asking for a job description, asking for a prioritization of the work that I'm doing, asking for support and the initiatives that she's asked for. Um, you know, so it's really hard for me to believe that you've exhausted all options when option one might be having that conversation with me. This seems a lot to me, like very transparent retaliation for my union activity. And I was very proud of myself for having, you know, kind of the guts to say that to them directly. And of course they denied it. And of course I referenced what had happened with you. What had happened with Taylor saying this is a pattern of behavior that you're doing that you're following here. And it's impossible for me to believe that, um, you know, there's no place for me, at this organization. 

This is when the senior leadership team gets emotional. Tears start to flow from Aziz, Kickstarter’s CEO. 

These three leaders are incredibly performatively apologetic about my having ended up in this situation and the degree of respect that they have for me and wanting to be able to quote, work something out, uh, that benefits everyone. Um, and there's even a moment where [Head of HR] said to me, you know, we just want to make sure that we are setting you up for success via here or elsewhere. And this was just in direct opposition to what Aziz had said to start the meeting, which was, this is not a conversation about letting you go or anything. So, you know, it was so disorganized and so clear that they were a not expecting me to stand up for myself at all. And B we're trying to figure out a way to legally, let me go keep their hands clean and be able to pretend that this wasn't a retaliatory decision. It brings me great joy to say that while this terrible meeting was happening, uh, you know, the Kickstarter United is under attack. Email was hitting the inboxes of all of our colleagues.  - Trav

By the end of this meeting, even though they have not fired him yet, it’s clear that management is forcing him out of the company.  Trav walks out, ready to fight. He pushes the followup meeting with management out a week, we call up our legal rep from OPEIU, and we get to work on a strategy.  When Trav walks into his next meeting with HR a week later, he lays out a plan for himself that Kickstarter’s management was not expecting. A plan that changes the course of the union drive.

 And I will never forget the look on his face in that moment.  - Trav


The Kickstarter Union Oral History is brought to you by the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy at NYU Law.  It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.  And the music was composed by Michael Simonelli over at the podcast production company 

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