eBay TCGPlayer Union TCGUnion-CWA Celebrates Anniversary, Settlement For Fired Employees

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


It's been one year since authentication workers at eBay-owned trading card marketplace TCGPlayer successfully voted to become the first union in eBay history, but contract bargaining has stalled as the company drags its feet to delay union progress.

eBay acquired TCGPlayer in October 2022 in a ~$295 Million deal that left founding CEO Chedy Hampson and other key management in place, despite a history of strained labor relations which led to a previous union drive in March 2020 that received national media attention and public support from Senator Bernie Sanders.

Source: NLRB Case Number 03-RC-258061

That first vote was ultimately not successful, but workers' concerns about wages, disability accommodations, and a desire to have more say in company policies continued to grow, especially once eBay entered the picture, leading TCGPlayer authenticators to file multiple complaints with the National Labor Relations Board and another official union petition on January 25, 2023.

eBay fought hard against TCGUnion-CWA, hiring infamous anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson to represent their interests and filing objections and appeals to try to overturn the successful union vote on March 10, 2023.

More NLRB complaints followed the vote as the newly formed union accused eBay of illegally firing pro-union employees.

eBay-Owned TCGPlayer Accused Of Illegally Firing Pro-Union Employee
eBay stays on sidelines as TCGPlayer racks up more National Labor Relations Board complaints in union fight.

Those complaints have finally been resolved today, with eBay and the union inking a settlement that includes compensation for the fired employees as well as other concerns in exchange for dropping all open NLRB complaints.

(SYRACUSE, N.Y.)β€”The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has approved a significant settlement of Unfair Labor Practice charges filed last year by Communications Workers of America (CWA) against TCGplayer and its parent company eBay. This settlement covers CWA’s charges that TCGplayer/eBay:

  • Unlawfully terminated a worker for engaging in protected activity,
  • Refused to recognize and bargain with the union,
  • Denied workers their right to union representation in meetings,
  • Threatened to discipline union workers more harshly than others, and
  • Unlawfully changed the terms and conditions of employment without first bargaining with the Union as required.

Two TCGplayer workers who were unlawfully fired will receive significant payments and others will be compensated for lost sick pay. TCGunion-CWA and eBay/TCGplayer are currently negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement.

Neither eBay nor TCGPlayer have responded to requests for comment but a representative for TCGUnion-CWA provided a copy of the notice to employees that will be required to be posted as a condition of the settlement.

The ongoing union fight has focused significant scrutiny on due diligence and disclosure in the TCGPlayer acquisition and what the implications could be for eBay's other labor centric operations.

As eBay has increasingly moved into labor-centric operations due to CEO Jamie Iannone's "vertical focus strategy" relying on authentication and other specialized services, the company and its investors have also increasingly been exposed to potential risks and higher operational costs that further unionization might bring.

When Iannone first embarked on his grand plan to bring authentication in-house with the acquisition of Sneaker Con in 2021, very little attention was given to the significant change in strategy it represented or the risks this strategy could pose.

As savvy scrutineer, unsuckEBAY, noted at the time, it was a "significant step-change" as eBay departed from the asset light, "just a venue" model that had previously protected it from unionization efforts which have targeted competitors like Amazon.

Given the previous TCGPlayer union drive in 2020, eBay should have been able to anticipate and prepare for the possibility of facing unionization efforts following the acquisition.

Interestingly, eBay chose not to reveal the potential risks that unionization efforts could bring to investors until February 23, 2023 in a 10-K filing with the SEC.

However, even after this disclosure, the company downplayed the potential impact.

Our business is primarily nonunionized, but we have some works councils outside the U.S. There has been a general increase in workers organizing to form or join a union in the U.S.

While we have not seen a material increase in such efforts among our employees, the unionization or related activism of significant employee populations could result in higher costs and other operational changes necessary to respond to changing conditions and to establish new relationships with worker representatives.

That statement was made one month after TCGPlayer employees filed their union petition and multiple unfair labor practices complaints.

While eBay may not consider 272 employees "significant" within the total global headcount, any unionization efforts in the US were arguably a "material increase" from 0, especially considering now that one authentication facility has successfully voted to unionize, others may follow suit.

Questions and concerns about apparent due diligence and disclosure failures in the TCGPlayer acquisition were amplified even further when both Hampson and eBay Chief Accounting Officer Brian Doerger abruptly stepped down in March 2023.

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In addition to ongoing labor troubles, a historic $59 Million settlement with the DEA and litigation brought by the EPA, eBay recently entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice after being found criminally liable in connection to the 2019 cyberstalking of journalists Ina and David Steiner of EcommerceBytes.

The deal hit the company with the maximum fine of $3 Million dollars and will require enhanced compliance monitoring for 3 years, including a specific focus on Mergers and Acquisitions due diligence, disclosure and risk management.

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The broad scope of the compliance monitoring suggests the Department of Justice and other Federal regulatory bodies may be concerned about a wide variety of business practices, opening eBay's entire operation up to additional scrutiny.

Chief Legal Officer Marie Oh Huber also announced last week that she will be stepping down after almost 9 years at the company to pursue "a new chapter in her career, while exploring personal interests and passions."

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Chief Legal Officer Marie Oh Huber is stepping down after almost 9 years as company faces ongoing litigation & increasing regulatory scrutiny.

Not only did Oh Huber participate in some troubling email exchanges that were revealed in the cyberstalking case, she also directly supervised ex-Chief Compliance Officer/current VP Deputy General Counsel M&A and Securities, Molly Finn - who in her current role would have overseen the TCGPlayer due diligence and acquisition process.

The enhanced compliance agreement and other legal matters have shed new light on Finn's history at the company and the possible reasons why a deal to avoid further prosecution for federal felonies committed by eBay security personnel would have anything to do with Mergers and Acquisitions.

eBay Compliance Monitoring - What Does Cyberstalking Have To Do With M&A Due Diligence & Risk?
eBay’s deferred prosecution deal with DOJ raises question - what does Mergers & Acquisitions due diligence have to do with cyberstalking scandal?

Were due diligence failures in the TCGPlayer purchase a factor in Oh Huber's departure and if so, will Molly Finn be next?

eBayLegalMarie Oh HuberTCGPlayer

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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!

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