Paizo Paizo Workers Unionize

The workers at Paizo, publisher of Pathfinder and Starfinder, have formed the United Paizo Workers union (UPW). The new union speaks of its love for the company, but cites a number of underlying issues including underpay, crunch conditions, and the recent allegations regarding the work environment made by former employee Jessica Price. They also bring up hiring practices, pay inequity, verbal abuse from management, and the covering up of harassment allegations.

The UPW is asking Paizo to recognize the union.

UPW Twitter Header.png


Redmond, WA (October 14th, 2021) — Today, the workers at Paizo, Inc - publisher of the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games - are announcing their formation of the United Paizo Workers union (UPW), with the Communication Workers of America’s CODE-CWA project. This union is the first of its kind in the tabletop roleplaying games industry.

“Unions have helped build a stronger working class in America and I’m proud to stand with United Paizo Workers. I believe that when we all work together, we’re better for it. Unionization allows workers to have a seat at the table and ensures that our voices and concerns are being heard and addressed so that all of Paizo can move forward for a positive future.” - Shay Snow, Editor

"I love my job. I love my coworkers, and I love the company I work for. I get to sell a game that I love to a community that I love. I come from a pro-union family, and I believe that unionizing Paizo will be the best way to protect the people, company, and community that I love, for now and going forward into the future." - Cosmo Eisele, Sales Manager

“My coworkers are amazing and so are the games we make together. I want Paizo to keep publishing Pathfinder and Starfinder content for years to come. This is my way of helping management improve our company culture, and by extension, the content we produce.” - Jenny Jarzabski, Starfinder Developer

“I proudly stand with my coworkers as we strive to help improve our workplace, and I believe the UPW will amplify our voices and assist with the changes we feel are necessary in making Paizo a more positive space for its employees.” - Logan Harper, Customer Service Representative

Paizo is one of the largest tabletop roleplaying publishers in the world, producing more than 10 hardcover books annually, along with numerous digital adventures and gaming accessories. Paizo also runs some of the most successful living campaigns in tabletop gaming history, with regular players in more than 36 countries. However, despite this success, Paizo’s workers are underpaid for their labor, required to live in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, and subjected to untenable crunch conditions on a regular basis.

Though efforts to organize by the Paizo workforce had already been underway for some time, the sudden departures of several long-standing employees in September and the subsequent allegations of managerial impropriety by former Paizo employees threw into stark relief the imbalance of the employer/employee relationship. These events, as well as internal conversations among Paizo workers, have uncovered a pattern of inconsistent hiring practices, pay inequity across the company, allegations of verbal abuse from executives and management, and allegations of harassment ignored or covered up by those at the top. These findings have further galvanized the need for clearer policies and stronger employee protections to ensure that Paizo staff can feel secure in their employment.

Changes have been promised, internally and externally, by the executive team. However, the only way to ensure that all workers’ voices are heard is collective action. It is in this spirit that the workers of Paizo have united to push for real changes at the company. The UPW is committed to advocating on behalf of all staffers, and invites all eligible Paizo employees to join in the push for better, more sustainable working conditions. The union requests the broad support of the tabletop community in urging Paizo management to voluntarily recognize the United Paizo Workers, and to negotiate in good faith with the union so that both may build a better workplace together.

For more information, please contact the Organizing Committee at committee@unitedpaizoworkers.org

Raychael Allor, Customer Service Representative

Brian Bauman, Software Architect

Logan Bonner, Pathfinder Lead Designer

Robert Brandenburg, Software Developer

James Case, Pathfinder Game Designer

John Compton, Starfinder Senior Developer

Katina Davis, Webstore Coordinator

David "Cosmo" Eisele, Sales Manager

Heather Fantasia, Customer Service Representative

Eleanor Ferron, Pathfinder Developer

Keith Greer, Customer Service Representative

Logan Harper, Customer Service Representative

Sasha "Mika" Hawkins, Sales and E-Commerce Assistant

Jenny Jarzabski, Starfinder Developer

Erik Keith, Software Test Engineer

Mike Kimmel, Organized Play Line Developer

Avi Kool, Senior Editor

Maryssa Lagervall, Web Content Manager

Luis Loza, Pathfinder Developer

Joe Pasini, Starfinder Lead Designer

Austin Phillips, Customer Service Representative

Lee Rucker, Project Coordinator

Sol St. John, Editor

Michael Sayre, Pathfinder Designer

Shay Snow, Editor

Alex Speidel, Organized Play Coordinator

Levi Steadman, Software Test Engineer

Gary Teter, Senior Software Developer

Josh Thornton, Systems Administrator II

Jake Tondro, Senior Developer

Andrew White, Front End Engineering Lead



In Solidarity:

Thurston Hillman, Digital Adventures Developer
 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Lord_Blacksteel

Adventurer
Er, the systems I have quoted were to prove that at the time Paizo published their milestone products, there were other systems on the market that were more in tune with design tendencies.

For recently released examples of modern fantasy design:
<snip>
The key differences:
1. Shorter GM preparation time.
2. Shorter Player introduction time.
3. Meaningful tactical choices backed by (usually) lower mechanical complexity.

All of them are recent, all of them are pretty good (I am partial to games I run/prepared to run/preparing to run: Whitehack 3E, CortexPrime hack, Vaesen, and Achtung Cthulhu).
You seem to be following a fallacy that equates tabletop RPG design to technological development which is just not how it works.

Tabletop RPG design is mostly driven by personal tastes, not some universally recognized progression towards "modern" or even "simpler" design. Not everyone wants a lighter game. That you do is fine but do not assume it's some universal constant.

If you need some examples we can start with Call of Cthulhu mentioned earlier in the thread which is a 40 year old system that seems to be doing just fine these days. Savage Worlds is a lighter system that's been around for 20 years and is doing pretty well too. FG Star Wars/Genesys is not what I would call rules-light and it's been around for ten years as a consistently popular system.

And to bring it all back to your original post I don't see any connection between any of those systems and their management style or how they treat people. Paizo's games are one thing - how they manage their business is a completely different thing.
 

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MGibster

Legend
I'm not an RPG insider, so I don't really understand the labor needs of most game companies. It's been my impression from discussions here, that it's fairly uncommon for a writer to make their whole living off of writing game material. Even Mike Pondsmith moved on to greener pastures when he wasn't making enough from his many wonderful games. I'm very interested in seeing how this plays out. As someone pointed out, it's a worker's market right now and RPG writers have more power now than they've ever had before.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I love the version of 2d20 seen in Conan and Infinity, but it's hardly a good example of lightweight, low prep design. Conan has intricate talent trees, detailed systems for combat (with hit locations and armor per location) and social conflicts. Rules heft wise I consider it pretty on par with Pathfinder Second Edition, Edge of the Empire, Chronicles of Darkness, and Legend of the Five Rings. All excellent modern games by the way.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
Unions do not kill businesses. They are there to improve working conditions (and frankly, in the time of COVID pandemic, many companies were initially rather lacking in this regard).

The Paizo union initiative is a clear and well-thought appeal for reasonable treatment of people - and all people participants are staking their livelihood on this, so please, do acknowledge their effort.

Please read their FAQ before commenting further:

TLD;DR:
They are NOT advocating for a strike, product boycott, etc. While there is no public statement that would list their requests, they are not threatening anyone.
So, did you just say to read one sides information and make up your mind? :D
 

Jaeger

That someone better
Organized workers do not guarantee a successful business. I suspect that Paizo doesn't have the money to improve worker pay and will probably start the layoffs immediately to meet those demands. Then, in a few years, Paizo will be gone. The problem isn't the talent. They have good products. The problem is the management, the way they conduct business. When management fails so does the company.

Pazio has a killer supplement churn, and employee head count for a company that is not doing 5e sales levels. Sustaining this all seems to be based on their current business model.

Even if they don't go union, the impact of what there freelancers are doing will have big ripple effects IMHO. I would also assume that they could be in violation of their contracts... But we are not privy to the inner workings.

If they are forced to change their current model, they will need to seriously cut back on the supplement churn, employee's, and may even have to drop their least profitable game line.

Ultimately I am just guessing.

Fundamentally I believe you are correct in that Pazio is going to go through big changes in the next few years that they might not be able to weather.


Er, the systems I have quoted were to prove that at the time Paizo published their milestone products, there were other systems on the market that were more in tune with design tendencies.

For recently released examples of modern fantasy design:

Of the games you listed only Conan, Symboaroum, and Forbidden Lands are similar enough in theme to "D&D" they could be considered "competition" - the others are rules light offerings for people looking for a different kind of game, and level up is a 5e add-on for people who would like some of what PF2 has in their 5e.

And all three still fall short of the broad playstyle that base D&D encompasses:
Conan: There is some fiddly rules stuff there. Also uses d6's in a way that is not standard - sells special dice for that. Your house system + Special dice = better have a popular IP to get people to buy...

Symbaroum: Crunch sweet spot, but needs a new edition to iron out rules issues. Setting seems cool, but they spread out setting info over metaplot supplements!? The 1990's called and they want their bad metaplot idea back. FL is coming out with a 5e version to cash in...

Forbidden Lands: old-school hexcrawl experience - and too tightly focused on that to really grab much of the 5e audience or OSR audience for that matter...

While one can disagree with the direction they went with PF2, IMHO they were clearly catering to their hardcore base that liked the featapalooza rules mastery of PF1.
 


ruemere

Adventurer
I work at a job that is not union. I'm here along with many others because the union killed our previous company. My current company has grown ten fold since I've been here, replacing what was lost. Not even close to an exaggeration. We went from 50 stores to over 500 since I've been here.

So in your experience that's true. In mine, it's not. However, I'm not going to bother with that. I just don't think anything is saving Paizo.
Not gonna comment on the first part of your post aside from this: everyone's entitled to their opinion, and my experience is positive (I have been employed for over 25 years now, and worked as contractor and full time employee in places with and without union presence).

Regarding Paizo - the purpose of the Paizo's union effort is not to kill a goose laying golden eggs (aka the employer), but to secure job comforts the employer failed to provide. The things I read about in the Internet (lack of separate rooms during company trip, insufficient cleaning policy, disorganized remote work experience, no HR) do not seem to be irreconcilable.
 

Wrong.

I work in grocery distribution. Albertson's is closing businesses. You'd have to go back nearly 20 years to know what was happening but you won't. I know you won't. You won't even look around today and see what is happening to Albertson's in California.

And Costco is unionized and doing great, so I know you don't realize that the story with some companies is not the story with all companies, nor is it even necessarily the case with your example; unions make easy targets when businesses pay for bad strategies. But even then, the Paizo union is largely about securing rights regarding employment rather than strictly better pay. If Paizo is going to go out of business for keeping their office livable, giving their people a choice to work from home, and not be able to fire without cause, then Paizo has deeper structural problems that aren't the fault of the union.

So, did you just say to read one sides information and make up your mind? :D

I dunno, Paizo hasn't shared their books. If the other side has information to share, that'd be great rather than people simply assuming financial hardship based on nothing, which also really has nothing to do with what the union is actually attempting to get fixed.
 

JDragon

Explorer
Was any kind of a deadline given by the UPW?

It seems like with a good number of freelancers stopping work Paizo is going to need to make a decision soon about how they are going to respond to this.
 

Was any kind of a deadline given by the UPW?

It seems like with a good number of freelancers stopping work Paizo is going to need to make a decision soon about how they are going to respond to this.

It's a very solid maximum pressure scenario. Good for the workers, less so for people who want to keep the status quo in place.
 

ruemere

Adventurer
[...]
Of the games you listed only Conan, Symboaroum, and Forbidden Lands are similar enough in theme to "D&D" they could be considered "competition" - the others are rules light offerings for people looking for a different kind of game, and level up is a 5e add-on for people who would like some of what PF2 has in their 5e.

And all three still fall short of the broad playstyle that base D&D encompasses:
Conan: There is some fiddly rules stuff there. Also uses d6's in a way that is not standard - sells special dice for that. Your house system + Special dice = better have a popular IP to get people to buy...

Symbaroum: Crunch sweet spot, but needs a new edition to iron out rules issues. Setting seems cool, but they spread out setting info over metaplot supplements!? The 1990's called and they want their bad metaplot idea back. FL is coming out with a 5e version to cash in...

Forbidden Lands: old-school hexcrawl experience - and too tightly focused on that to really grab much of the 5e audience or OSR audience for that matter...

While one can disagree with the direction they went with PF2, IMHO they were clearly catering to their hardcore base that liked the featapalooza rules mastery of PF1.
Well, I liked these systems a lot more than PF1 and PF2, and their game prep was also smaller (while I agree that high level game prep for PF2 is surprisingly low when compared to PF1, I still feel that player-facing part requires too much effort). They are not necessarily superior, just less so overwhelmingly longwinded.
 

ruemere

Adventurer
So, did you just say to read one sides information and make up your mind? :D
Nope, I'm just googling Paizo goings-on from time to time.

Once at a time I have been prone to investing like 40 manhours per session in PF1 game, and so I naturally became emotionally invested in the company, purchasing one book after another, reading news and participating in some community activities.

As for the current developments, well, I can empathize with the founders of the UPW - I've worked in smaller companies, and I know firsthand how corner-cutting, deadline-chasing can be damaging to one's health in the long run. In the end, most of us prefer to have a stable income, loving family and enjoyable middle age. You won't get there if your employer does not respect your needs.

Here is a quote (Workers at Paizo have announced the United Paizo Workers union):
Staff say they are “underpaid for their labor, required to live in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, and subjected to untenable crunch conditions on a regular basis”.

Also, Paizo Publishing headcount is below 50, while over 30 people signed the UPW letter. I find that number rather telling.
 


R_Chance

Adventurer
Nope, I'm just googling Paizo goings-on from time to time.

Once at a time I have been prone to investing like 40 manhours per session in PF1 game, and so I naturally became emotionally invested in the company, purchasing one book after another, reading news and participating in some community activities.

As for the current developments, well, I can empathize with the founders of the UPW - I've worked in smaller companies, and I know firsthand how corner-cutting, deadline-chasing can be damaging to one's health in the long run. In the end, most of us prefer to have a stable income, loving family and enjoyable middle age. You won't get there if your employer does not respect your needs.

Here is a quote (Workers at Paizo have announced the United Paizo Workers union):
Staff say they are “underpaid for their labor, required to live in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, and subjected to untenable crunch conditions on a regular basis”.

Also, Paizo Publishing headcount is below 50, while over 30 people signed the UPW letter. I find that number rather telling.
And this googling has uncovered Paizo's side of this? Revealed the financial status of the company? Uncovered the pay roll? Provided a reasonable look inside the business model? Provided a plan for adjusting their business model to accomplish this? No? My point is simple, we do not have the information needed to judge how reasonable the employee demands are or if the company can meet them. It would certainly be nice if they could. Preferably without shuttering the company. Time will tell. The obvious tactic of making "reasonable" demands in a vacuum is not giving those of us on the outside (perhaps including the employees) the information needed to come to a reasonable conclusion about this matter.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
And this googling has uncovered Paizo's side of this? Revealed the financial status of the company? Uncovered the pay roll? Provided a reasonable look inside the business model? Provided a plan for adjusting their business model to accomplish this? No? My point is simple, we do not have the information needed to judge how reasonable the employee demands are or if the company can meet them. It would certainly be nice if they could. Preferably without shuttering the company. Time will tell. The obvious tactic of making "reasonable" demands in a vacuum is not giving those of us on the outside (perhaps including the employees) the information needed to come to a reasonable conclusion about this matter.
Some things, like basic work conditions, do not have multiple sides. The Union requests are mild and reasonable, if they cannot be met, then Paizo has bigger problems.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
Some things, like basic work conditions, do not have multiple sides. The Union requests are mild and reasonable, if they cannot be met, then Paizo has bigger problems.
And maybe they do. The company might be treading water or sitting on a dragon's hoard. We don't know. Therefore it is difficult to say how reasonable these requests are in terms of the company's (and jobs) survival.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
And maybe they do. The company might be treading water or sitting on a dragon's hoard. We don't know. Therefore it is difficult to say how reasonable these requests are in terms of the company's (and jobs) survival.
If these requests cannot be met, then Paizo as I said has bigger problems, because their business is not sustainable. That's managements problem, not the workers.
 

And this googling has uncovered Paizo's side of this? Revealed the financial status of the company? Uncovered the pay roll? Provided a reasonable look inside the business model? Provided a plan for adjusting their business model to accomplish this? No? My point is simple, we do not have the information needed to judge how reasonable the employee demands are or if the company can meet them. It would certainly be nice if they could. Preferably without shuttering the company. Time will tell. The obvious tactic of making "reasonable" demands in a vacuum is not giving those of us on the outside (perhaps including the employees) the information needed to come to a reasonable conclusion about this matter.

I think the fact that Paizo hasn't indicated they are in financial trouble is at least a solid indicator. More than that, though, is that one of the big reasons brought up in their own statement is stronger protections for workers when it comes to management abuses as well as in things like hirings and firings. Just concentrating on the financial side misses a lot of what they are actually asking for (as well as what's been revealed about Paizo for the last month).
 

And Costco is unionized and doing great, so I know you don't realize that the story with some companies is not the story with all companies
Who said "this is only a single incidence" other than you? No one. You're engaging in a straw man argument from a position of ignorance. I know way more about grocery distribution and the history of grocers and unions than you. That's a fact. I gave a single example knowing that's the best any of you could handle, and you still couldn't manage that. Should I talk about the history of Albertson's? Raley's? My boss and two coworkers in my office are both former Raley's employee whose DC was shut down by corrupt union meddling. How about we talk about Safeway? The DC I work at is a former Safeway DC that was closed down. You don't have resident knowledge in this topic at all. I have two decades.

Finally, Costco is not a standard grocer as customers are limited by subscription. Let's just leave it at that.
 

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