Kickstarter Worker Claims She Was Fired Over Union Effort

A Kickstarter employee says that the tech company fired her for her union organizing and that she was told to sign an overly broad non-disparagement agreement if she wanted severance pay.

Clarissa Redwine, who was a senior design and tech outreach lead at the company, said Kickstarter let her go last week, attributing her firing to collaboration and communication issues. Redwine claims she had never received any discipline she thought could lead to termination until after the union campaign she was part of became public. Previous negative feedback from supervisors, she said, had been of the “room to grow” variety.

“I was one of the open, public-facing union organizers at Kickstarter,” Redwine, who’d been at the company since 2016, told HuffPost.

Several Kickstarter employees announced their intentions to unionize with the Office of Professional Employees International Union in March. Redwine said she was told in July that she would be put on a performance improvement plan. She claims she never was, but eight weeks later she lost her job.

Slate reported that another Kickstarter employee and organizer, Taylor Moore, was fired Thursday.

In an email, Kickstarter said it hasn’t fired anyone because of union organizing. The company alleged that Redwine “failed to correct performance issues that had been documented and discussed in detail with her over the course of several months, leaving us no choice but to part ways with her.”

The company went on, “We have expectations that employees are able to perform in their role, and that they set up their teams and colleagues for success…. In short, being a union organizer doesn’t change your responsibility to do your job.”

Redwine countered: “I exceeded all my stated performance metrics for Q2 2019.” 

The union has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against Kickstarter over the agreement she was required to sign in order to receive severance, claiming it was so broad it violated her rights. The severance agreement, a copy of which was viewed by HuffPost, would have forced her to relinquish any claims filed under a litany of laws protecting workers, including the National Labor Relations Act ― the statute that governs collective bargaining in the private sector.

Redwine would have also had to agree not to disparage the company in any way, or disclose to anyone the fact that the agreement existed. The union described it as “unlawfully broad” in their unfair labor practice charge.

Redwine refused to sign it.

“It would keep me from telling my story,” Redwine said. 

Kickstarter said it “offered to revise” the agreement and was surprised by the charge filed.

The employees behind the union effort said they wanted to unionize to safeguard Kickstarter’s stated values, like transparency and inclusion. “Kickstarter’s efforts are incomplete, and these values have failed to manifest in our workplace,” they wrote in a March memo obtained by The Verge. “We can do better together — for ourselves and our industry.”  

The tech industry has been a tough one for organized labor to crack, and public campaigns in the industry have been few. A successful effort at such a high-profile platform like Kickstarter would provide OPEIU with a strong toehold in the sector to do more organizing. 

Kickstarter said it has “affirmed the staff’s right to organize,” and the decision “remains firmly in their hands.”

This story has been updated with comment from Kickstarter.