labor Employees at Epic-Owned Bandcamp Form Union
Employees at Bandcamp, an online audio distributor, have announced their formation of a union. Last year, the platform was acquired by Epic Games, the multibillion-dollar company behind games like Fortnite and the Unreal gaming engine.
According to the union, known as Bandcamp United, a super-majority of workers are in favor of forming a union. They have authorized The Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU)’s Tech Workers Union Local 1010 division to represent their 62-person unit; this is the same group that supported Kickstarter United to form a historic first union among U.S. tech employees.
Bandcamp United — which includes engineers, writers, project managers, support staff and designers — is asking Epic Games for a fair and timely election via the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
“We need a union at Bandcamp to ensure that all employees can ask management tough questions without fear of retribution,” said Cami Ramirez-Arau, a support specialist, in a press release. “The integrity of workers who build Bandcamp is a crucial aspect of the company’s ability to uphold its values. Bandcamp’s core mission is best protected via collective action and workers having a seat at the table.”
Per Bandcamp United’s mission statement, the union wants to eliminate historical disparities in pay within and across departments. The workers also want to ensure their access to paid time off, salary adjustments to meet changing economic realities and consistency in their communications with management.
“It is important to us that Bandcamp’s artist-first mission continues with clarity and accountability, with all resources afforded to us distributed in the fairest and most transparent way possible,” the mission statement reads. “We feel a responsibility to support those who are most marginalized, to use our platform with integrity, and to provide reasonable protections and accommodations for those at-risk.”
Bandcamp stands out from its peers in music streaming, since musicians can limit how many times fans can listen to their songs for free without buying them. But when it comes to labor, workers at other streamers are also in the midst of historic organizing. A group of 40 YouTube Music contractors initiated a strike in early February, which is still ongoing.
In the gaming industry, a few departments within Activision Blizzard have managed to form unions, despite the company’s illegal interventions. Meanwhile, a group of 300 quality assurance testers at Microsoft’s ZeniMax studio earned union certification in January.
“We are aware that some Bandcamp employees are seeking to organize a union and are reviewing the petition to understand their concerns,” said Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond in a statement.
Update, 3/16/23, 5:00 PM ET with comment from Bandcamp CEO.