Paizo Paizo Freelancers Support Union

Jason Tondro, senior developer for Pathfinder and Starfinder, has indicated that a large swathe of Paizo freelancers have stopped work in support of the recently formed union by Paizo employees.

Initially the freelance group had a range of demands, but in light of the new union, they have put forward one single new demand instead: to recognize the union.


Today I want to shine a spotlight on UPW’s secret weapon: freelancers. Paizo’s freelancers are our ally in this fight and we’re helping each other. Here’s how:

Paizo’s business model is built on freelancers. Very few of the words in our publications are written in-house by full time employees on the clock. Instead, we outline projects, hire freelancers to execute those outlines, and develop and edit those manuscripts.

This allows a relatively small number of people (about 35, including art directors, editors, designers, developers, and more) to produce, well, everything. Have you seen our publication schedule lately? It’s LONG. And Paizo must publish new books to pay its bills.

Well, about a month ago, about 40 of Paizo’s most reliable, prolific, and skilled freelancers simply stopped working. In official parlance, this is called “concerted action.” In layman’s terms, it’s a strike without a union.

Some of these freelancers were in the middle of projects, with upcoming deadlines. Some of them had completed manuscripts they refused to turn over. Some were people we need to hire, to get scheduled books underway in time to publish. All of that FROZE.

Folks, Paizo can’t operate in that environment. We can’t just assign 10,000 word Org Play scenarios, 35,000 word SF adventures, 50,000 word P2 adventures to new, untested freelancers. And for many projects, it’s too late in the schedule to do that anyway.

Now, this group of freelancers had a specific list of demands. They wanted Paizo to hire a diversity officer, for example, and investigate recent terminations. But yesterday, they updated their demands: they’ll all come back to work if Paizo recognizes United Paizo Workers.

This is an enormous lever, and we at UPW are incredibly grateful to have it. Paizo can’t make its publication schedule without freelancers, and it can’t pay exec salaries without publications. But if they recognize our union, freelancers come back to work TOMORROW.

Sure, yes, contract negotiations will be long and trying for all involved. But Paizo will still get books out the door, it’ll be able to make its commitments and pay its bills and salaries. And during contract negotiation, we, the people who hire freelancers, can pay back.

In contract negotiation, we can fight for better pay rates for freelancers. We can get more time in the schedule, so writers have time to do their job right. We can get playtesting built into these schedules, which not only helps freelancers but creates better books.

Paizo’s freelancers and United Paizo Workers are working hand in hand. And I am so grateful, honored, and humbled to have that partnership.
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Paizo Exec 1: The people are revolting!
Paizo Exec 2: Apparently so are the carpets.

I’ve always though being a freelancer was a particularly precarious position. You only have your reputation to trade off and are only as good as your last months work. You hold few bargaining chips and even fewer rights.

Very brave of them to stand up for the wider Paizo workforce like that. 👏


The Laughing One
I’ve always though being a freelancer was a particularly precarious position. You only have your reputation to trade off and are only as good as your last months work. You hold few bargaining chips and even fewer rights.
Being a freelancer is no different from being a regular employee imho as far as employ ability goes. Yes, you have more risks, but you also have more freedom in how you operate. It depends on the field you're in and the state of the market on how precarious your position is, but you always need to assume that the current project is the last one you work on for that particular company. That's why you need to diversify (work for other companies as well), so your dependencies on a single company are not going to (make or) break you (not all eggs in one basket).

Depending on your skills, experience, reputation, cost, etc. You'll either get the job or not. It really depends on how the market is, for RPG writers the market is always horrible, even monkeys get better pay when they are accepting peanuts, and there's always another fool ready to join the ranks of poorly paid RPG writers to replace you at a 'better' rate (worse rate for the writers). There are good reasons why many of the older BIG names in the RPG business started for themselves instead of keep working for others at piss poor rates. Why work at horrible rates, when you can pay others to work at horrible rates for you?

On the other hand, not many of the freelancers are actual 'professionals' if some of the communication and whining is any indication. So if the freelancers don't act as professionals, they don't get treated like professionals. A professional is always a professional, even if they aren't treated like one. If you have to treat the company you're doing projects for as the 'enemy', it's time to look for another company to do projects for. It's like in any business, if there's no money to be made, you do something else (or close your business).

I thoroughly dislike unions for freelancers, I became an (IT) freelancer to have more freedom, not go from one 'slave driver' to another. ;-) I've heard some very nasty stuff from certain branches where you don't get work unless you're part of the union. So instead of having multiple companies that are either good or bad, you have one (bad) Union. If you don't get with the program, at best you don't get any work, at worst you get beat up by 'unionists', also known as mob legbreakers...


I crit!
The union workers themselves are not currently planning a work stopage. It's interesting that there is a different approach by the freelancers. Can anyone shed light on to why? Is it stated in the video? I'm not through it yet.


This is a pretty unusual role playing scenario—and you’re saying that Paizo’s “unionization guide” is going to be a one-off or an adventure path publication?

Announcement unclear. All I got is that it’s being delayed.

This is because of the part in the ‘Agents of Edgewatch’ where the underpaid Kobolds wanted to unionize—isn’t it? They want to explore that scenario a bit more fully in their new AP publication series?

As someone who worked in the ttrpg and computer game industries, I really agree with the idea of unionizing. Simple fact is, companies that deal with workers with enlightened self-interest are few and far between. While unions have earned a bad rap due to issues with corruption, they are still the only functional way to oppose corruption and aggressive tactics in companies. At least that I’ve seen work.

I just hope it catches on in more sectors.

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