eBay TCGPlayer Union Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge Over Surveillance & Benefits Changes

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


Unionized workers at eBay subsidiary TCGPlayer have filed a new Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging the company has escalated union-busting activities targeting women, disabled and pro-union workers with illegal surveillance and changes to family leave benefits.

According to TCGPlayer-CWA, following the successful union vote in March 2023, eBay implemented a new policy limiting workers’ disability accommodations and their ability to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) without negotiating first with the Union as required under the NLRA.

The union also says despite being aware that TCGplayer has a high proportion of workers with reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, eBay revoked all worker accommodations without warning and instituted a change in the way workers accessed benefits, forcing them to completely exhaust their Paid Time Off allowance before FMLA became available.

This new NLRB complaint also includes charges regarding the placement of surveillance cameras throughout the workplace, which the union says have been conspicuously placed over the work stations of pro-union employees as well as the office’s punch-clock.

eBay/TCGplayer has apparently refused to explain how these cameras are being used, but workers say the company has also recently escalated its discipline around what it calls “time theft.” The NLRB charge alleges the placement of these cameras constitutes an illegal change to workers’ status quo conditions of work and is an effort to intimidate workers.

TCGUnion-CWA members will also travel to New York City today to hold a rally at the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Conference, calling on Adriane Brown (who currently sits on the board of directors for eBay and the IWF) to direct the company to stop stalling bargaining efforts and negotiate with workers in good faith.

Brown serves as chair of eBay's Compensation and Human Capital Committee, with important responsibilities to oversee employee relations, but the union says she has done nothing to halt eBay’s anti-worker, anti-gender equity actions.

TCGUnion-CWA had been hopeful that negotiations would begin to move forward more productively after eBay reinstated previously removed commitment to bargain in good faith in company's Human Rights Policy and agreed to a settlement that included compensation for previously fired pro-union workers and other concessions in return for dropping several prior NLRB complaints in March.

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But new Head Of Labor Relations, Kristi Selby, appears to be putting the union-avoidance and delaying tactics she ostensibly learned in her decade plus stint at Nestle to good use by continuing to draw out the bargaining process with TCGUnion-CWA.

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The company has also engaged infamous anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson to represent their interests since labor trouble began brewing shortly after eBay acquired TCGPlayer in October 2022.

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

Those previous unionization efforts and ongoing labor issues raised questions about due diligence and disclosure in the TCGPlayer acquisition and what the implications could be for eBay's other labor centric operations, leading both Hampson and eBay Chief Accounting Officer Brian Doerger to step down from their positions on March 20th, 2023.

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While TCGUnion-CWA members continue their efforts to bring public awareness and pressure to bear on eBay to bargain in good faith, eBay TCGPlayer appears to be flexing their influence and money to gain positive industry coverage and sentiment, most recently sponsoring popular role playing game podcast, Critical Role.

Notably, the creators and professional voice actors behind Critical Role were strong supporters of actors and writers during last year's SAG-AFTRA strikes, posting messages of solidarity and even joining the picket line to lend their voices and sponsorship to the union protest movement.

Many celebrities also took part in a special Union Solidarity Coalition charity auction event hosted on eBay last year to raise funds and awareness for crewmembers impacted by ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA actors and writers strikes, which we noted at the time was an odd choice with everything that was happening in the eBay TCGPlayer labor situation.

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It's understandable that normally pro-union stars may simply be unaware of TCGPlayer's ongoing anti-union activity and treatment of organized workers, considering the shocking lack of major media attention that has been given to the first union in eBay's history and their now year plus long campaign to secure their first contract.

Meanwhile, other voices within the collectible card game industry are coming out swinging against eBay TCGPlayer with a group of sellers airing their concerns about the acquisition, union-busting, alleged retaliation and anti-competitive practices in a letter to executive leadership and the eBay Board of Directors.

Those anti-competitive practices have grown to include eBay directly selling on their own platform under the TCGPlayer name with no disclosure to consumers or the third party sellers the company is now competing directly against - a conflict of interest that could seriously jeopardize one of eBay's main defenses in ongoing EPA lawsuit that seeks to hold the company accountable for prohibited and illegal items sold on the site.

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Adriane Brown and the rest of eBay's Board of Directors must consider the potentially brand damaging and financially devastating consequences of failing to address these issues.

Continued violations of labor laws and engaging in anti-competitive business practices could lead to increased regulatory scrutiny and legal action which the company can ill afford on top of a historic $59 Million settlement with the DEA, the EPA lawsuit, and a deferred prosecution agreement after being criminally charged in connection to the 2019 cyberstalking of journalists Ina and David Steiner of EcommerceBytes with $3 Million fine and enhanced compliance monitoring that includes a specific focus on Mergers and Acquisitions.

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If the Board will not step up to protect both employee and shareholder interests, eBay's upcoming annual shareholder meeting on June 20th would be an excellent time for investors to demand an in-depth investigation into the serious conflicts of interest; due diligence, risk management and disclosure failures; and possible breaches of fiduciary duty that have been revealed by the eBay TCGPlayer debacle.


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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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