NYC & NYS Comptrollers Chastise eBay For Removing Pro-Union Language From Human Rights Policy

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


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New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli call out eBay's Human Rights Policy reversal in letter to Board of Directors demanding reinstatement of previous pro-union language and a commitment to bargain in good faith with unionized authentication workers at subsidiary TCGPlayer.

eBay acquired the collectible card game marketplace in October 2022 in a ~$295 Million deal that left founder CEO Chedy Hampson and other key management in place, despite a history of strained labor relations that led to a previous union drive in 2020.

Citing issues with wages, disability accommodations, and a desire to have more say in company policies and processes, as well as concerns about what the acquisition would mean for future operations, TCGPlayer authenticators filed multiple complaints with the National Labor Relations Board and an official union petition on January 25, 2023.

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Authentication workers at eBay-owned TCGPlayer petition to form a union with support from Communications Workers of America.

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.

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The ongoing union fight raised questions about due diligence and disclosure in the TCGPlayer acquisition and what the implications could be for eBay's other labor centric operations.

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Amid scrutiny and investor concerns about the acquisition and union risks, TCGPlayer founder Chedy Hampson and eBay Chief Accounting Officer Brian Doerger both stepped down from their positions on March 20th, 2023, shortly followed by eBay's Chief Information Officer, Rami Mazid.

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eBay Chief Accounting Officer steps down amidst growing concerns about TCGPlayer due diligence.

GM eBay Canada, Rob Bigler, was promoted to take the helm at TCGPlayer in April, but the change in leadership did not resolve ongoing labor tensions as more complaints were filed with the NLRB and eBay continued trying to block the certification of the successful union vote.

eBay was finally forced to acknowledge TCGUnion-CWA on August 15, 2023 after a final NLRB decision rejected their attempts to overturn the vote, but the union says the company has continued to engage in delay tactics and bad faith bargaining in an effort to deny their fairly won union rights.

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TCGUnion-CWA calls out eBay TCGPlayer for delay tactics & bad faith bargaining, allege eBay is denying fairly won union rights.

As first reported by Value Added Resource on August 30, 2023, eBay quietly changed their longstanding Human Rights Policy to remove one sentence which had previously explicitly promised to respect workers' rights to organize and to bargain in good faith.

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The previous policy, which can be found on the Internet Archive, said: "eBay also respects workers’ rights to unionize, and commits to bargain in good faith with any relevant associations or labor unions."

After the TCGPlayer win, that sentence was scrubbed from the page and there is no longer any explicity mention of unions anywhere in the policy.

That change has caught the attention of the NY Comptrollers, prompting a public call for the policy to be reinstated.

New York, NY – New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli penned a joint letter to eBay’s Board of Directors urging them to take swift action and ensure that company management comply with eBay’s stated Human Rights Policy as well as restore key language they removed from describing their commitment to workers’ rights. Specifically, the company’s current statement removed the following language: “eBay also respects workers’ rights to unionize and commits to bargain in good faith with any relevant associations or labor unions.”

“Companies thrive when their workers are supported and respected,” said New York Comptroller Lander. “The stealthy removal of the language expressly referencing fundamental freedom of workers to unionize threatens eBay’s legacy and deepened our concern as shareholders. Either eBay ignored our previous concerns or responded by removing the language about respect for workers’ rights and good faith bargaining without telling anybody–I’m not sure which would be worse. We urge the board to genuinely engage with us now. and I am thankful to Comptroller DiNapoli for his commitment to ensuring that we hold companies accountable for their promises.”

“When companies are accused of acting contrary to their stated principles and policies, it prompts concerns among shareholders,” New York State Comptroller DiNapoli said. “eBay should be working to build constructive and positive bonds with its workforce, not removing commitments to fundamental human rights. Alongside Comptroller Lander, we encourage companies to uphold their commitments on labor rights, safeguarding employees and shareholder value. We strongly urge eBay to do just that.”

The letter notes that despite eBay's removal of the language, the current policy still plainly conveys that the company must strive to conduct business consistent with the principles set forth in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Fundamental Conventions, which include freedom of association and collective bargaining as fundamental worker rights.

The New York City and New York State pension funds are long-term investors in eBay, with 2.5 million shares in the company valued at $111 million as of June 30, 2023.

A group of investors including Comptrollers Lander and DiNapoli had also previously raised concern in June, expressing concern over an apparent misalignment between eBay’s stated human rights commitments and the conduct of management due to allegations of violations of U.S. labor law by surveilling employees at work, holding anti-union meetings, and firing employees who displayed support for the union.

The full letter from June can be read here and the letter regarding removal of the pro-union statement from the Human Rights Policy can be read here.

Comptrollers Lander and DiNapoli have given eBay until December 4 to respond to this most recent correspondence.

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