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.

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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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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

FoolishFrost

Adventurer
I'm a big pro-union guy but I really honestly doubt that. There's probably only like two other dedicated RPG publishers with enough actual non-freelancer staff that would make something like this viable. The vast majority of the operations out here are like, two guys (who often happen to be the owners) operating out of their home and a bunch of contracted freelancers.
Let me be clear, the gaming industry is not just rpgs. It’s board games. Computer games. Mobile game industry…

this could have VERY wide reaching effects. Then again, might not.
 

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JThursby

Adventurer
Also I’d add that I doubt Paizo as a business is in any real trouble, I might be wrong but we’ll see.

I mean if they accept the Union. Rejecting it outright is a whole other plane of possibles
Rejecting it full stop is extremely unlikely in my mind. My guess is the first rounds of talks will be “how many of your other demands do you want met so we can give them to you without any unions forming?” and be met with “naughty word you just recognize us now” in so many words. I’m expecting progress to be very slow because whoever will be negotiating on Paizo’s side will know that any poorly chosen words can be leaked to Twitter and have more PR damage done, so rather than make Paizo’s position clear they’ll have to employe Corp speak and euphemism. Stalling also works in Paizo’s favor because the more time that passes the less hot this issue gets. It’ll be a battle of attrition between the fledgling Union to maintain support and relevance and Paizo coping with the work freeze.
 

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
Let me be clear, the gaming industry is not just rpgs. It’s board games. Computer games. Mobile game industry…

this could have VERY wide reaching effects. Then again, might not.
Fair enough, I was just speaking specifically about RPGs, since we're on Enworld.

Speaking about the situation in RPG publishing specifically, the labor situation is kind of reversed. Here, it's the white collar office administrative workers asking to unionize while the labor that writes the adventures (the heart of the product, as it were) will always have a line out the door and have people willing to write for 1 cent a word, for 50,000 words and receive no royalties. That won't change. So, of course, the freelancer work stoppage (while helpful to the Paizo union's cause) is a card in their deck, but only for the short term. I doubt Paizo would have any trouble getting them all replaced given a couple months' time. All that being said, I wish them success. But it's important to recognize the unique nature of their business and how it relates here.

Also, lol, they're in this mess because the wouldn't vacuum a carpet for like 7 years. Brought low by Oreck lmao
 
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darjr

I crit!
I dunno it Paizo can afford to have to go on long. The freelancers, the ones I know of, are good and probably have people waiting to hire them. I imagine if it goes on to long some of them may have to take those gigs and put off Paizo work. Maybe? Or is that a bad faith thing for someone on strike to do?

I think the uncertainties are bad too.
 

Staffan

Legend
Rejecting it full stop is extremely unlikely in my mind. My guess is the first rounds of talks will be “how many of your other demands do you want met so we can give them to you without any unions forming?” and be met with “naughty word you just recognize us now” in so many words. I’m expecting progress to be very slow because whoever will be negotiating on Paizo’s side will know that any poorly chosen words can be leaked to Twitter and have more PR damage done, so rather than make Paizo’s position clear they’ll have to employe Corp speak and euphemism. Stalling also works in Paizo’s favor because the more time that passes the less hot this issue gets. It’ll be a battle of attrition between the fledgling Union to maintain support and relevance and Paizo coping with the work freeze.
From what I understand, the union has already filed paperwork with the appropriate authorities to force a vote in ~8 weeks, should it come to that. So their position is something like: "We have done our homework on this. 70% of the eligible workers are on board – well, 75% now that we've gone public. Either we'll take a vote in 8 weeks and force the issue, or you recognize us voluntarily."

Now, given how union-hostile the US is, I'm sure there are ways the management can sandbag things somewhat, but it does seem like a foregone conclusion.
 

Retreater

Legend
I dunno it Paizo can afford to have to go on long. The freelancers, the ones I know of, are good and probably have people waiting to hire them. I imagine if it goes on to long some of them may have to take those gigs and put off Paizo work. Maybe? Or is that a bad faith thing for someone on strike to do?

I think the uncertainties are bad too.
As a freelancer myself, I say it's bad faith to break a contractual obligation. I would never do that if a legally binding contract was signed. And if money has already exchanged hands (as my case has been with other publishers), to not fulfill the work may have further ramifications.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!

Not sure how smart it is for the "freelancers" to support this move. I mean, the freelancers are the direct competition of the union workers. If/when they get a union, there is nothing stopping the union from saying "Ok, we want no more than 20% of work done by freelancers, and ALWAYS union employees first. If there's anything left over, THEN you can go to freelancers".

Makes me wonder if these freelancers have any clue what they are actually supporting.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Bolares

Hero
Rejecting it full stop is extremely unlikely in my mind. My guess is the first rounds of talks will be “how many of your other demands do you want met so we can give them to you without any unions forming?”
Isn't the union already formed, just not recognized?
 


Bolares

Hero
Hiya!

Not sure how smart it is for the "freelancers" to support this move. I mean, the freelancers are the direct competition of the union workers. If/when they get a union, there is nothing stopping the union from saying "Ok, we want no more than 20% of work done by freelancers, and ALWAYS union employees first. If there's anything left over, THEN you can go to freelancers".

Makes me wonder if these freelancers have any clue what they are actually supporting.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
According to how the workers described freelance work in Paizo they are not in direct competition with each other. Free-lancers do most of the writing and emplyees do most of the production. And the union has made a point of supporting free-lancers.
 

Bolares

Hero
I dunno it Paizo can afford to have to go on long. The freelancers, the ones I know of, are good and probably have people waiting to hire them. I imagine if it goes on to long some of them may have to take those gigs and put off Paizo work. Maybe? Or is that a bad faith thing for someone on strike to do?

I think the uncertainties are bad too.
Also, how long they can go without pushing the work being held of by the free-lancers? How feasible it is to substitute them?
 


pming

Legend
Hiya!
According to how the workers described freelance work in Paizo they are not in direct competition with each other. Free-lancers do most of the writing and emplyees do most of the production. And the union has made a point of supporting free-lancers.
Sounds good on paper....but you know the saying about "power"...
;)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 



TheSword

Legend
I’m interested in to what extent issues at Paizo are replicated across the industry?

Surely from what I’ve read, the worst concerns at Paizo consist of the kind of poor management decisions that come from working within small family owned businesses where key decisions are highly centralized in a few senior people. Spending for instance or policies on equality for instance.

I find it very hard to believe that a massive company like Hasbro with what is almost certainly a substantial HR department/and PR department would allow a dirty-to-the-point-of-danger building for instance by not cleaning carpets for 8 years.

Ive worked for privately owned family businesses and know that big egos can come into play. Ive found it fundamentally different working for big corporate brands though. The examples given by Orion Black referenced in the Wired article and previous threads may have some similarities but seem to be a different order of magnitude to the scale of the Paizo issues, which if true are widespread and legion.
 

I’m interested in to what extent issues at Paizo are replicated across the industry?

Surely from what I’ve read, the worst concerns at Paizo consist of the kind of poor management decisions that come from working within small family owned businesses where key decisions are highly centralized in a few senior people. Spending for instance or policies on equality for instance.

I find it very hard to believe that a massive company like Hasbro with what is almost certainly a substantial HR department/and PR department would allow a dirty-to-the-point-of-danger building for instance by not cleaning carpets for 8 years.

Ive worked for privately owned family businesses and know that big egos can come into play. Ive found it fundamentally different working for big corporate brands though. The examples given by Orion Black referenced in the Wired article and previous threads may have some similarities but seem to be a different order of magnitude to the scale of the Paizo issues, which if true are widespread and legion.

Nah, I feel like this misses what Black was talking about, as well as the problems Wizards have had with race in Magic. They probably don't have the cost-cutting stupidity, but looking at the culture stuff it's just as bad; with Paizo, it looks like the lower-ranks managed to actually push through stuff, hence why they were able to cultivate a more progressive image. If I remember correctly, D&D doesn't have a big team, which probably insulates them from such pressures since most of their work is freelance. The new Wired article does detail similar stuff, and I wonder if Wizards' position in the industry scares off people who would rather speak out.
 
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TheSword

Legend
Nah, I feel like this misses what Black was talking about, as well as the problems Wizards have had with race in Magic. They probably don't have the cost-cutting stupidity, but looking at the culture stuff it's just as bad; with Paizo, it looks like the lower-ranks managed to actually push through stuff, hence why they were able to cultivate a more progressive image. If I remember correctly, D&D doesn't have a big team, which probably insulates them from such pressures since most of their work is freelance. The new Wired article does detail similar stuff, and I wonder if Wizards position in the industry scares off people who would rather speak out.
In the Wired article linked above they claim an email from a WOC representative says WOC employs 959+ full time employees across Magic and D&D. That’s substantially more than Paizo as I understand it.

I’m not sure that article attributes the same stuff to WOC? It mentions low pay and long hours and being a largely white male team. It doesn’t mention discriminatory contracts, bullying and screaming at staff, poor work environment, making people feel lucky to be paid at all, harassment at cons from customers and managers (and being made to feel it was your fault) etc etc etc that all seems to be raised at Paizo in the article.
006E36DB-1299-4A80-AAB1-3B01A43B8791.jpeg
 

In the Wired article linked above they claim an email from a WOC representative says WOC employs 959+ full time employees across Magic and D&D. That’s substantially more than Paizo as I understand it.

Yes, but while you include a picture of that from the article, you (for some reason) left out that they couldn't comment on how big the team that worked on D&D was. It's been several years, but if I remember correctly the team on D&D is actually quite small and most of the staff is dedicated towards Magic.

I’m not sure that article attributes the same stuff to WOC? It mentions low pay and long hours and being a largely white male team. It doesn’t mention discriminatory contracts, bullying and screaming at staff, poor work environment, making people feel lucky to be paid at all, harassment at cons from customers and managers (and being made to feel it was your fault) etc etc etc that all seems to be raised at Paizo in the article.

They don't because most of it is restricted to what already happened last year with Orion Black, where he described an environment where people were actively gaslighting him and stealing his work. A lot of what he described is really just as bad. Also follow the link to the person commenting on Magic, as it also describes how harsh Wizards is on dissent with social media.

If that's true (and given how corporate brand management works in the US, I don't see why it wouldn't be), you probably have people who are way less willing to speak out because they'd be blacklisted by the biggest company on the block. It's the sort of thing that makes it hard to give specifics because those sorts of things can be traced back to certain people. With Paizo, it's still something but at the same time they don't have a big corporate umbrella to protect them from concerted effort.
 

gss000

Explorer
I’m not sure that article attributes the same stuff to WOC? It mentions low pay and long hours and being a largely white male team. It doesn’t mention discriminatory contracts, bullying and screaming at staff, poor work environment, making people feel lucky to be paid at all, harassment at cons from customers and managers (and being made to feel it was your fault) etc etc etc that all seems to be raised at Paizo in the article.
I used to do contract work for Wizards and Hasbro at conventions (~2006-2012), although we saw ourselves as much as volunteers who wanted to play games and show others what we liked about them. I worked one or more convention floors each year depending on my availability and what WOTC needed, including PAX and GenCon. I never saw anything like in the Paizo accusations - especially with respect to rooming - and the people running the showroom floors and the con programs I found were equitable, fair, and above board. I think they would have been furious if the convention floor staff were harassed or threatened, especially by other team members. The closest to harassment I ever experienced were a couple Pathfinder 1E fans who decided I was the one personally responsible for 4E and decided to let me know I ruined D&D.

All my experiences and interactions with staff were great, and I didn't see anything rising to the level of what was in the article. Staff would have been That said, this is only one account from a white male of one corner of a company for few days to a week or two each year, so there likely was more going on than I saw.
 

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