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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
 
Last edited:

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Stone Dog

Explorer
For any non-USians, unions have been in decline in this country for a very long time. They were always much weaker here than in many other rich countries and only about 10% of workers are members of a union. (Peak was about 30% in the mid-40s.)

We get a lot of anti-union rhetoric in some jobs too. I worked at Office Depot and I think that every year there was a UNIONS BAD refresher. You could replace the work "union" with "corporate" in all of them, though. "I don't want somebody standing between me and my manager" Corporate did that all the time. "We went on strike and nothing got better" Corporate never made things better and nobody was around to keep them from making it worse.

There are weak and corrupt unions, and that certainly needs addressing, but unions overall are sometimes the only real weapons that workers have.
 

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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
This is starting to drift into a discussion about the concept of unions in general. If it does that, I'll close the thread; this site isn't the place for it. Please keep the topic to this one particular union only. Thanks.
 




sevenbastard

Adventurer
If the unionize it will encourage other companies to go contract labor to avoid the same issue.

Also not sure what thier profit margins are but I imagine they are shrinking. Union would cut into that even more. A unionization could be a nail in the coffin.
 


I will say that I am curious as to what the "never trust Jessica Price" people have to say about this development. Because it sure seems that fallout from her twitter thread are what led to this development. I'm not even saying that her thread didn't involve a lot of her own interpretation, but it does seem that there was a push to dismiss all the allegations based on feelings people had about the person posting them.
 


ReshiIRE

Adventurer
If the unionize it will encourage other companies to go contract labor to avoid the same issue.

Also not sure what thier profit margins are but I imagine they are shrinking. Union would cut into that even more. A unionization could be a nail in the coffin.
Why would a union cut into their prof margins (besides raising wages for workers?) I was under the impression unions took fees from workers, not from a company itself.
 


Jaeger

That someone better.
I'm not sure how I feel about that. Working in a heavily unionized environment has been some of the worst work experiences I've had, but again unions proved very useful, maybe even necessary in certain industries. It's what they want, I hope they get it!

Unions are not inherently bad for companies. But neither are they inherently good for companies, or the long term interests of their members/employee's.

It really depends how they are run. Especially in how the union will protect the interests of good employee's vs. its willingness to work with employers to cut bad hires loose.

The union contract that would come out of this would be a big tell for how this will go...


I think it is great! As for Paizo not recognizing it, they might not get a choice.

I don't think Paizo would get a choice if the vote is in favor of unionization.


Also not sure what their profit margins are but I imagine they are shrinking. Union would cut into that even more. A unionization could be a nail in the coffin.

Unknown.

Pazio never airs their dirty laundry if they can help it. Everything is great and wonderful until it isn't.

No one knows their internal financials. But they do employ more people than WotC's D&D division, and they do not do 5e sales levels.

If Paizo goes union, the next two years will be very interesting.
 


JThursby

Explorer
I don't see how this could really be a bad thing in the long run. At worst it fails and a bunch of people leave, who then get replaced, and the company goes back to normal in a few months. At best it could facilitate some needed reorganization and workplace assurances. If there are tensions between the employees and management I don't see how this would make it worse, since it at least provides an official avenue for greivences other than outing yourself as disgruntled to HR.

The union members are urging recent ex-subscribers to pledge a subscription should the union be recognized. If any of you guys cancelled your subscriptions over the controversy a while ago I suggest considering doing so, this is going to be the best option for transparent company reform you're ever going to realistically get.
 

ReshiIRE

Adventurer
Things like pensions and healthcare costs are typically supported by the employer not the union. The union receives a small fee from employees but the burden is on the company
Wouldn't that be the case already? I'm not in the US, but I get health insurance and pensions from my company (which is a US multi-national) and I'm not in a union (unfortunately, I am in one of the least unionised jobs in general).

I still fail to see how a union impacts on this.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Wouldn't that be the case already? I'm not in the US, but I get health insurance and pensions from my company (which is a US multi-national) and I'm not in a union (unfortunately, I am in one of the least unionised jobs in general).

I still fail to see how a union impacts on this.
A union might actually, you know, get you a good benefit package if you don't already have one. Our state worker's union was attacked, in part, specifically because it was able to secure these benefits, even negotiating lower annual raises to secure the health insurance and pension benefits as the tradeoff.
 

ruemere

Adventurer
(written in reference to my previous post)
Some mental gymnastics going on here.
Agreed on that - I took a lot of shortcuts there.
Still, as a person who was a part of Paizo community before the Pathfinder, I feel justified taking them.

Shortcut #1. Pathfinder kept a lot of sacred cows from 3.5. From Paladin's alignment, through alignment and Evil races, to wizard power shenaningans. There was strong opposition to that at that time, and yet, none of that was addressed. Even worse, with Advanced stuff joining the fray, some things went further south.

In my opinion, that was indication that there were people in charge of creative design whose voice was stronger.

Shortcut #2. Oppressive design of Pathfinder 2. The year is 2018. The game market tends to use lighter mechanics, flatter power progression curve and abilities that are distinctive. You have 5E, Soulbound, my all-time-favorite 13th Age, and OSR. And then you get a game with stuff like this: https://www.aonprd.com/Feats.aspx

Again, in my opinion, this looks like a designer who discovered joys of Office 97 Excel spreadsheet. It's insane to expect people to delve, memorize, muddle through stuff like this. It's like playing a computer game on paper, without CPU and graphic card.
Again, someone with a lot of clout had to force this onto the people. I would hate to believe that modern design trends passed over heads of relatively young developers at Paizo.

I saw things like that happening in workplaces where management forced their vision onto their developers. Where progress stagnated. Where those who wanted to be creative got burnt on details.

In one of the workplaces I know the solution was to go agile. Take away power from the well-meaning people, and put it back in hands of people with vision. In another, was for the young developers to leave. In yet another, was for the devs to organize (and then, unfortunately, when management refused to yield, to leave).

IMHO, it's high time for Paizo to change. Protecting the voice of younger generation could be the right way to go about it.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Things like pensions and healthcare costs are typically supported by the employer not the union. The union receives a small fee from employees but the burden is on the company

What's that? Ah - Pensions? Don't talk about - pensions? You kidding me? Pensions? I just hope we can get a matching 401k!

Ahem. Seriously, though, and to make things particular to this union (PER MORRUS, ABOVE, let's not get this thread shut down)-

Fundamentally, and in the US, unions are about collectively bargaining the terms and conditions of employment. So what could a Paizo union do?

-They could disseminate the pay information, guarantee rates of pay for positions, and pay increases.
-Have contracts for workers that provide protection from "at will" termination (in other words, there would be a "for cause" process to be fired), require progressive discipline
-Have guaranteed severance for layoffs
-Have guaranteed leave of certain types (parental, vacation, PTO, sick, that sort of thing)
-Provide for contractual protection for discrimination and harassment w/r/t ermployees
etc.

Now, all of this would have to be bargained for, but there are protections for having this type of collective representation. Given what appears to be continuing issues at Paizo with regard to the employees (pay, crunch, harassment in some cases) and a lack of response from management, it seems that this might be fruitful.
 

JThursby

Explorer
I'm union-skeptical myself, but if even a quarter of Jessica Price's allegations are true, Paizo employees absolutely had to do something to protest the absolutely dismal conditions of their workplace.
I don't think anyone was seriously doubting there was truth to what she was saying, most of the complaints I read (and had) was about her proclivity for crude hyperbole and frustrating tendency to cast herself as an oppressed savior and almost everyone else as vicious accomplices of the forces of evil (a narrative she has repeated many, many times). There's nothing about the Paizo Union that's even a fraction as unpalatable, it has actual attainable goals and a course of action. I understand the anxiety over if it will slow down or shut down the company's output, but I would find that incredibly unlikely, or at least if it does happen a Union would not be the primary or even secondary reason.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
(written in reference to my previous post)

Agreed on that - I took a lot of shortcuts there.
Still, as a person who was a part of Paizo community before the Pathfinder, I feel justified taking them.

Shortcut #1. Pathfinder kept a lot of sacred cows from 3.5. From Paladin's alignment, through alignment and Evil races, to wizard power shenaningans. There was strong opposition to that at that time, and yet, none of that was addressed. Even worse, with Advanced stuff joining the fray, some things went further south.

In my opinion, that was indication that there were people in charge of creative design whose voice was stronger.

Shortcut #2. Oppressive design of Pathfinder 2. The year is 2018. The game market tends to use lighter mechanics, flatter power progression curve and abilities that are distinctive. You have 5E, Soulbound, my all-time-favorite 13th Age, and OSR. And then you get a game with stuff like this: https://www.aonprd.com/Feats.aspx

Again, in my opinion, this looks like a designer who discovered joys of Office 97 Excel spreadsheet. It's insane to expect people to delve, memorize, muddle through stuff like this. It's like playing a computer game on paper, without CPU and graphic card.
Again, someone with a lot of clout had to force this onto the people. I would hate to believe that modern design trends passed over heads of relatively young developers at Paizo.

I saw things like that happening in workplaces where management forced their vision onto their developers. Where progress stagnated. Where those who wanted to be creative got burnt on details.

In one of the workplaces I know the solution was to go agile. Take away power from the well-meaning people, and put it back in hands of people with vision. In another, was for the young developers to leave. In yet another, was for the devs to organize (and then, unfortunately, when management refused to yield, to leave).

IMHO, it's high time for Paizo to change. Protecting the voice of younger generation could be the right way to go about it.
I'm still not following what any of this has to do with manager/worker relationships. Were the sacred cows in PF1 strongly opposed by Paizo designers? Who are the people PF2 is forced upon - players or other designers?
If there are dots to connect here, you're not showing us how they connect.
 

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