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Bandcamp employees accuse CEO and Epic Games of union busting

Update: Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond has provided a response, saying the company is complying with the NLRB's process for Bandcamp United.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

April 6, 2023

3 Min Read
Black-and-white logo for music sharing platform Bandcamp.

Weeks after announcing their plans to unionize, workers at the Epic Games-owned Bandcamp are saying those efforts are being undermined. First spotted by Kotaku's Ethan Gach, Bandcamp United recently asked users on Twitter to "email CEO Ethan Diamond, asking him to stop union busting."

When Bandcamp United was first announced, it asked its management and parent company Epic Games to voluntarily recognize its existence. Should these allegations be true, they mark the first public indication of how Bandcamp and Epic have taken the union news.

Per the union, Diamond (who also co-founded the company) has allegedly been participating in union busting tactics alongside Epic. The union posted this as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) held a hearing to decide whether the union would go forward. 

Such tactics include the hiring of the Foley & Lardner law firm to purportedly delay a union vote and contest who can be included in voting. On its official website, the firm says it can "provide counsel on union avoidance considerations using a variety of programs and techniques."

"If your company is targeted by unions, we leverage our experience in all aspects of the organizational campaign and NLRB election law to litigate appropriate election issues."

At time of writing, the Bandcamp union hasn't provided an update to either its hearing with the NLRB or any further action from Diamond.

A brief history of union busting efforts in the game industry

Unionization in the game industry is a fairly fresh phenomenon, particularly for larger developers and corporations. As such, not all unions that have successfully formed had an easy path to getting there. 

For example, Activision Blizzard has been accused by workers of thwarting developers who tried unionizing. Last year, the NLRB accused the game publisher of withholding raises from QA workers at Raven Software who managed to form a union earlier in the year. 

Similarly, the publisher made a strange play to fight the Blizzard Albany union by reportedly showing a list of QA testers in Diablo IV footage. It also filed a pair of motions to halt that vote. 

Outside of that particular company, Nintendo of America faced allegations of union busting. Last year, the company and its global recruiter Aston Carter were accused of firing at least two contractors that wanted to discuss unionization with their coworkers, along with pay disparity and working hours. 

Game Developer reached out to Epic Games for comment, and will update when a response is provided.

Update: Epic Games reached out to Game Developer with a statement from Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond. In it, he states that the company is "following the NLRB’s process and timeline. Bandcamp will respect the election outcome and if a union forms, we will negotiate in good faith."

"It is common for companies to employ law firms to represent them in NLRB proceedings," he continued. "Both Bandcamp and the union have employed outside counsel. Not all Bandcamp employees want to be part of a union, so we believe an election matters."

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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