A majority of TCGPlayer authentication workers have voted to unionize, becoming the first US union in eBay history.
Authentication workers at eBay-owned trading card marketplace TCGPlayer filed a petition to form a union under the umbrella of Communications Workers of America on January 25, 2022, with a formal vote scheduled for March 10, 2023.
Since that petition, CWA has also filed 3 complaints with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of TCGPlayer employees, alleging management including CEO Chedy Hampson have engaged in coercive and retaliatory action against employees who support the union.
Per the TCGUnion Vision statement, organizers are primarily concerned with wages, disability accommodations, and having a seat at the table when it comes to company policies and processes.
We are organizing for:
- Wages that account for cost of living and cost of inflation, not just cost of labor, as well as an end to pay caps. We are not machines!
- A fair and comprehensive Sick Leave and Absence policy that does not punish people for factors they cannot control.
- Just cause and clear grievance and discipline procedures, applied equally to management. This includes the end of targeted retaliation using Performance Improvement Plans and write-ups that prevent workers from advancing in the company.
- Inclusive opportunities for advancement and fair and transparent hiring practices.
- A greater emphasis on what we can achieve together instead of the overbearing focus on individual metrics. We are adults; trust us to do our jobs!
- Fast and straightforward communication with People Success, especially as it pertains to the disability accommodation process. The current drawn out and emotionally taxing accommodation process adversely impacts employees who are already vulnerable.
- Greater focus on quality. Many of us are passionate about increasing the quality of our product in order to benefit customers, sellers, and our company reputation.
- Clear job expectations and duties, and the proper resources and training to successfully complete our tasks. A redefinition of the Generalist job title so that roles and responsibilities do not encompass every single task in multiple departments of the AC.
- A seat at the table so we can have a say in changes that occur and therefore increase transparency about these changes.
eBay announced the acquisition of TCGPlayer in August of 2022 and completed the deal in October. If these efforts are successful, this will be the first union in eBay history.
TCGUnion organizers sent a letter to eBay's Board of Directors in February, demanding that eBay uphold the commitments stated in their human rights policy and ensure that TCGPlayer management does the same.
Dear eBay Board Members,
We, the TCGunion-CWA Organizing Committee, are contacting you regarding the labor practices at one of your newest subsidiaries, TCGplayer. As you may know, a majority of employees of TCGPlayer recently announced our intention to form a union with the Communications Workers of America.
We love serving the trading card game community and being a part of the rapidly growing collectible authentication industry. We are committed to improving our workplace and to the spirit of collaborative, collective bargaining. Similarly, it is imperative that eBay move towards a more constructive and collaborative mode with its employees as well.
We are writing to ensure that you’re aware of the request we have made to TCGplayer leadership for the recognition of our union and to bargain in good faith with us and of the unfair labor practice charges that we have filed as a result of TCGPlayer management’s illegal interference in our union organizing efforts. We have presented TCGplayer leadership with a petition of support with signatures from the overwhelming majority of authentication services employees.
eBay’s Human Rights Policy Statement clearly states: “eBay also respects workers’ rights to unionize, and commits to bargain in good faith with any relevant associations or labor unions.”
eBay’s 2021 Impact Statement also states: “We aim to support, protect and promote fundamental human rights across our value chain, including those regarding wages, working hours, health and safety, freedom of association, non-discrimination, harassment prevention and the prevention of child, forced or bonded labor.”
We hope that eBay will adhere to its stated position and intervene to cease the behavior that is not in accordance with eBay’s policy that it puts forth to its employees, vendors, customers, and shareholders. By living up to its values, eBay would not be alone in the tech industry: Microsoft has announced that it will remain neutral on whether its employees organize a union and that it will bargain collaboratively with its employees that decide to join CWA.
During our organizing effort, TCGPlayer management has violated the National Labor Relations act by:
- Unlawfully surveilling union activity and creating 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 Labor Relations Act. Within the past two weeks, multiple TCGplayer supervisors and managers, including CEO Chedy Hampson, have patrolled the floor of the authentication center, taking note of employees who have worn any clothes or insignia identifying them as supporters of TCGunion-CWA. On January 27th, we filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board regarding this matter.
- Compelling employees to attend captive audience meetings. Forcing employees to attend meetings in order to influence their decision about whether or not to join a union is also a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, and we will be filing a charge about this as well.
We demand that all actions of this kind cease and eBay commit to a union neutrality agreement and respect the rights of the workers at TCGplayer. Under a neutrality agreement, in order to ensure a free and fair election, eBay and TCGPlayer management would:
- Respect our right to make our own decisions by refraining from unfairly influencing the election by sharing misleading, anti-union information with employees and posting anti-union flyers;
- End your relationship with Littler Mendelson, a notoriously aggressive union-busting law-firm;
- Refer all questions on the union to the TCGunion-CWA Organizing Committee
We request that you respect the decision of the majority of TCGPlayer employees to join our union by encouraging CEO Chedy Hampson to accept our union through card check and voluntary recognition so we can begin to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, a process we believe will strengthen the company.
TCGunion Organizing Committee
Communications Workers of America
However, inventory specialist Lindsey Gancasz says eBay has not been responsive to that letter and has not engaged directly with employees who are seeking to form the union.
Gancasz said the acquisition was a big part of why she feels unionizing now is so important.
It was around the time when eBay had acquired us that the kind of vibe of the place got steadily more and more corporate. I felt, and I feel like a lot of other people started to feel, like we were very much getting to that point of being numbers and looking at processes not in terms of what would actually make it easier for people, but what would create the most amount of money.
It was coming to the point where upper management really started treating us like we weren't people. A lot of the upper management doesn't even work in the building. It doesn't even know what we do, or knows it very tangentially, but does not know the nuances of what we do.
With the acquisition, it's just the community that we have built, that we're trying to keep right now, it's like no other workplace. And to see it slowly starting to be ripped away from us as profit is made more of a priority is scary. And this is the way that we can reclaim that community, that we can take our voices back and we can make them heard.
According to Gancasz, TCGPlayer workers are experts in their field with unique skills and knowledge that deserve specialist wages and a seat at the table when setting company policies and processes.
They put out surveys every year to check, you know, how everyone's doing, and it has dramatically dropped in the past year...
...We love our workplace. We expect the best because we know we can make it the best. We know that other people believe in this place too. This is the best job I've ever had. I love my coworkers, I love my leads and supervisors. I just want a living wage. I want people with disabilities at work to be able to get those accommodations and not have to wait years.
I want us to be able to speak about what we're experts at because this kind of job is a niche specialty. Not everyone can just condition cards. Not everyone has the knowledge that could separate a card that's worth a dollar and a card that's worth $50,000.
So we should be getting paid that specialty wage. We should be able to make decisions for our workplace because we know what we're doing, because we do this day in and day out. There's no one else who knows it better than us because it is our job and we all feel that we should have a say in how processes are made and how we're treated.
When asked about how she hopes their efforts may impact eBay's other authentication operations, Gancasz acknowledged those workers are also specialists in their niches and hopes to inspire them to organize for fair wages and treatment as well.
I hope this gives them the courage to do the same because they are worth it. Their voices are worth it. Just because eBay is a big company doesn't mean you can't do it.
Everyone deserves to be in a union. Everyone deserves to be paid a living wage. I couldn't authenticate a shoe or a purse or a watch . It's very specialized work and no one else can do what they do. And so to get paid for that work fairly, that's important.
And I just hope that this gives them the power and the drive to also unionize.
The NLRB complaints CWA has filed on behalf of TCGPlayer workers allege illegal interference and intimidation. Gancasz says they have been subjected to mandatory all-hands meetings full of anti-union propaganda and that management has displayed large posters around the facility with anti-union sentiments.
Other workers have been threatened with discipline or given ultimatums telling them they must choose between keeping their jobs at TCGPlayer or joining the union.
Organizers also state management has falsely accused them of harassing workers at their homes and advised workers to call the police if they receive pro-union calls, texts, or emails.
When asked if she has a message for TCGPlayer or eBay heading into Friday's union vote, Gancasz said:
Stop doing illegal things, just don't break the law. We care about this workplace. We want to make this company better. We all want to succeed and see TCGPlayer become bigger, but we also want to be able to contribute in a way where we can't right now.
Just respect that we want do this and don't try and bully us or intimidate us or accuse us of things we haven't done.
TCGPlayer has not responded to a request for comment. An eBay spokesperson provided the following statement:
eBay respects every employee's right to choose or refuse union representation. We share a commitment with TCGplayer to protect and empower our employees’ rights through a fair and free election - where each individual can make an informed decision.
UPDATE - after publishing a spokesperson from TCGPlayer provided the following statement:
TCGplayer management respects our team members’ right to choose or refuse representation. We are committed to protecting and empowering our employees’ rights through a fair and free election – where each individual can make an informed decision.