Fans of Magic: The Gathering, the Pokémon TCG, Yu-Gi-Oh, Flesh and Blood, and other trading card games are likely familiar with eBay-owned TCGplayer, one of the largest card buying and selling platforms in the U.S.
What they may be less familiar with are the recent unionization efforts of employees at its Syracuse authentication center, and the several complaints the union has raised accusing TCGplayer of increasing surveillance of organizing workers, holding anti-union meetings, and more.
TCGunion officially voted to unionize on March 10, but after an employee involved in the union organizing was fired just a few days later, further concerns were raised. “We do not believe that the termination of an organizer this close to our election is a coincidence,” TCGunion said on Twitter (below).
We do not believe that the termination of an organizer this close to our election is a coincidence, and we will not stand for the denial of our Weingarten rights. @TCGplayer and @eBay, stop with the intimidation tactics and accept that your workers have spoken. #TCGUstrong
— TCGunion-CWA (@TCGunionCWA) March 15, 2023
TCGplayer itself has made clear it isn’t happy that employees of its authentication center voted to unionize, with 136 voting yes and 87 voting no.
“We are disappointed our authentication center team members in Syracuse have decided to end their direct relationship with TCGplayer,” a company spokesperson told IGN. “Our priority continues to be building a positive workplace culture that supports our team members and benefits our TCGplayer community.”
The TCGunion may not agree that a positive workplace culture is being built, however. Formed in conjunction with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the union has so far filed four unfair labor charges against TCGplayer to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the latest in relation to the firing of organizer Iris St. Lucy following the union vote.
“Organizing on the job is a protected right. No worker should lose their job as a result of their commitment to making their workplace better by joining a union,” CWA secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens told IGN.
“Not only are eBay and TCGplayer violating labor law, the company is undermining its workers’ rights to union representation, fair wages, dignity on the job, and the ability to support their families. TCGplayer needs to stop these attacks and commit to bargaining a contract in good faith.”
The first complaint to the NLRB arrived on Jan. 27, two days after the TCGplayer employees announced their intentions to unionize. The CWA alleged that “multiple TCGplayer supervisors and managers, including CEO Chedy Hampson, have patrolled the floor of the authentication center, taking note of employees who have worn any clothes or insignia identifying them as supporters of TCGunion.”
We have an update for everyone who is looking for ways to show their support! Join us in a show of solidarity and tell TCGplayer to stop union busting! https://t.co/StRYOsfJth https://t.co/1HsBSThBDA
— TCGunion-CWA (@TCGunionCWA) January 27, 2023
Another complaint was filed a week later on Feb. 6, with the CWA claiming TCGplayer was “holding anti-union captive audience meetings to counter the ongoing union drive.” A third complaint on March 3 claimed it was “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees engaging in protected and concerted union activity.”
When the fourth complaint arrived on March 13, TCGunion said on Twitter that the firing of St. Lucy only further highlighted the importance of the union. “We won our union four days ago, and have the right to representation at any investigatory meeting which we believe could result in disciplinary action or termination,” it said. “This decision by management emphasizes the need to negotiate for a just cause termination clause in our contract.”
This idea was supported by CWA Local 1123 executive vice president Nikki Penner, who told IGN that “a collective bargaining agreement will not only give TCG workers the safeguards and protections they deserve, but a voice on the job to create positive change for other workers in this industry to follow.
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“I’ve been around TCGplayer workers since the early stages of their organizing and have witnessed their dedication to each other and to improving standards for the warehouse and card selling industry by forming their union,” they added.
Whether or not the accusations against TCGplayer bleed through to its customer facing storefront remains to be seen. Magic: The Gathering YouTuber PleasantKenobi told IGN that, while condemned union busting certainly wouldn’t help TCGplayer’s reputation, it doesn’t mean the community will boycott the company as a result.
Customers’ opinion on the company worsened when it was purchased by eBay in October last year, he said. “There was a vocal fear of monopolization of the card game space, which goes hand in hand with Magic itself growing as a game, appearing more in big box stores, and on Amazon [and so on],” PleasantKenobi said. “Anti-union sentiment does nothing to disarm the fears that the company is becoming a cartoonishly evil big bad corporation.”
He continued: “I know a lot of the vocal Magic community spaces online, and the creators that stand as community leaders are quite progressive in their attitudes, and are vocally pro-union. In spite of that, there is an old adage that Magic players complain a lot but take very little action, although consumers did actively reject recent exploitative and prohibitively expensive products from Wizards of the Coast to positive effect.
“Coupled with Hasbro changing course with Dungeons and Dragons recently due mostly to community outcry and reaction, it gives me faith that tabletop gaming’s enfranchised communities would take action to stand in solidarity with TCGplayer’s workers; that we are becoming more savvy as consumers.”
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer and acting UK news editor. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.