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

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.

What country are you in? (Serious question.) Americans famously get health insurance through their employer. The government's supposed to sell it to you if the employer doesn't give it to you, but some more conservative states did not step in and...it's complicated. Few Americans get pensions anymore, you're expected to save money left over after wages and expenses and invest it in the stock market.

The US social safety net is much weaker than that in many other rich countries.
 

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Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
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.

Regardless of how you feel about Price, the actual factual information she provided (like an office space not being cleaned in 7 years, and management not wanting to have it cleaned) still points to Paizo's workplace being horrible.

I'm glad the employees are trying (and hopefully succeed) to get improved work conditions, though I am skeptical of unions universally being a force of good.
 

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.

It really depends on the Industry but where I work union employees pay about $50 a month for thier families insurance and non union pays about $500 a month for the same insurance.

The company is covering a % of everyone's insurance but obviously a much larger portion of the Healthcare cost for union employees.

Again it depends on what is negotiated but the reason companies are against unions is because they cut into the bottom line. This is from both direct costs like healthcare and pensions and typically through reducing the workload thus requiring more employees to do the job.
 

JThursby

Adventurer
Regardless of how you feel about Price, the actual factual information she provided (like an office space not being cleaned in 7 years, and management not wanting to have it cleaned) still points to Paizo's workplace being horrible.
Certainly in a state that demands reform, which is what is being asked for.
I'm glad the employees are trying (and hopefully succeed) to get improved work conditions, though I am skeptical of unions universally being a force of good.
Like Morrus said, the efficacy of unions is beyond the scope of this thread, but to put it simply, the unions people worry about are the huge corrupt ones like the US Teacher's Union and the US Police Union that actively make the lives of the people they serve (children and the general public respectively) appreciably worse. A publishing union less than a hundred people in size for a company that sells stuff to niche hobbyists isn't anything to fear.
 

Riley

Legend
Most likely, Paizo will fight this and there will be a vote in the future as to whether or not there is a union.*
*Because this is America, and that's what always happens. Well, almost always.
Paizo is privately owned, I believe, and is able to choose to be one of the companies who works with its employees and welcomes their unionization.

I guess we’ll find out soon if Paizo is the progressive and welcoming employer they have seemed to style themselves as.
 


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!
I’ve worked in unionized and non-unionized workplaces. My working conditions and compensation have always been vastly better at a unionized job versus one that was not. I hope this works out for team P
 


Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
I’ve worked in unionized and non-unionized workplaces. My working conditions and compensation have always been vastly better at a unionized job versus one that was not. I hope this works out for team P
I'm with you. I've also worked in a bizarre mush where I was considered 'bargained' when I worked for one corporation - I paid no union dues, but I got the benefits. An example: I went on vacation once and came back to a pay raise ($2/hour) retroactive back three months. That was pretty hefty. And then later, my position got reclassified again, and I got another $0.75/hr retroactive back three months.

To say that whole place was crazy is... an understatement. But, it's a notoriously rich company so they were probably like... whatever
 

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.
That characterization of her posts seems rather jaded / biased against her. I knew nothing about her until the recent scandal and that is not how I would describe her posts at all.
 
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Having read the twitter. The best thing Paizo and all managing individuals could do, is take stock of exactly all the harms that were done over the years. Ever since the company was founded. Not only what has been exposed so far. Proactively reach out and ask all laborers, past and present, to tell you all their hurts, without fear of reprisal.

And gather up the hurts, and admit it your part in it. Face the the music, whatever the cost. And without "corporate-speak."

And voluntarily offer generous and commensurate amends for each hurt, no matter how small or big. Some may just require a private apology. Some may need a public admission. Some may require an outside consultant, mediator, or training. There may need to be explicit changes in policy. Some hurts may need concrete forms of reparation. Without lawsuits and such.

C'mon Paizo, step up to an unprecedented, authentic, contrite admission. And make concrete reparation for each hurt.

For example: the allegation that a romantic disappointment fueled a retaliatory atmosphere. Well, if that is true (and, at first hearing, it does sound true), then fess up, as an individual, and as a workplace. It's not wrong for laborers (who aren't in a direct supervisory role) to ask out other laborers. If it had just been an awkward romantic pass, and nothing more came of it, that'd be totally fine. Awkward but fine. We all do that. We all have awkward disappointments and moments. That's the ups and downs of life. But then, for it to fuel workplace repercussions, that's not cool.

And it's probably illegal. But skip the legalism if we can, and just admit it. (Keeping in mind: if such an event went to court, how much would it cost?) And make commensurate amends, which may involve voluntary monetary reparations.

We love Paizo's creations, and we love Paizo laborers. C'mon Paizo, take the steps of fearless and thorough amends. Be courageous! Get clean! Make a new start!
 

Regardless of how you feel about Price, the actual factual information she provided (like an office space not being cleaned in 7 years, and management not wanting to have it cleaned) still points to Paizo's workplace being horrible.

I'm glad the employees are trying (and hopefully succeed) to get improved work conditions, though I am skeptical of unions universally being a force of good.
If it involves humans, it will never universally be a force of good. I can’t think of one “good” organization that is universally so, primarily because people are involved.
 
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ruemere

Adventurer
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.
At Paizo, managers participate in creative process. You know their names, they also feature prominently on the covers of their products.
In other words, you have people who work both as creative staff and as senior management. Do you see the potential issue here?

Were the sacred cows in PF1 strongly opposed by Paizo designers?

Sacred cows were opposed by the community during playtest of first edition. They were not addressed in the PF1. They were not addressed in further releases of PF1.

I'm sure that it was only natural to follow maximum compatibility path with the corebook... however, the Advanced Player's Guide was a product that could have changed the scene. And it did not. Further products introduced a lot of small changes, but overall (the Pathfinder line of products for reference: List of Pathfinder books - Wikipedia) other game companies left Paizo behind.
Even better, 5E was released in 2014, and despite its flaws (and initially limited support) won away people from Pathfinder.
Paizo's creative response? Ultimate books in 2016 (i.e. more of the same) and similar. No real changes.

My guess is that the development followed the path set by the creative people in charge, and that deviations and experiments were not encouraged.

Pathfinder 2 does not seem to follow features of modern game design. So, either all Paizo devs love oppressive control and super minute details to the death, OR not all of them are happy with this, but they are not able to get the point across to those who do. The second option would be quite common for small companies with lack of balanced creative voice.

Who are the people PF2 is forced upon - players or other designers?

Er, no one. What a strange question is that, really. All I'm saying is that PF2 is a weird fish that could indicate a workplace with the lack of balance, and where younger/junior devs could need help.
 

payn

Legend
(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.
Nah, I think you are just chewing sour grapes because Paizo took design decisions you dont agree with. I dont like the direction of PF2 either, but its a fine game for the good folks that like it. Designed by 4E folks too, which many folks consider a stellar example of modern design. It would be a little conspiracy theory for me to think some oppressive minority in management is forcing antiquated games on people because of some unrelated work environment issues.
 

Erdric Dragin

Adventurer
So, kudos to people organizing themselves. It's time for Paizo environment to regain balance*

* To me, the sacred cows of Pathfinder 1 and overbearing oppressive mechanics of Pathfinder 2 are symptoms of a vision of a few charismatic individuals drowning innovation and freedom of modern systems - quite typical result of dominated work environment. I left Pathfinder behind a few years ago, but still hope to return.
I definitely got the feeling that PF2e was pushed hard by upper management and it wasn't entirely something the entire company wanted to do, especially when PF1e was going strong and just fine.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Like Morrus said, the efficacy of unions is beyond the scope of this thread, but to put it simply, the unions people worry about are the huge corrupt ones like the US Teacher's Union and the US Police Union that actively make the lives of the people they serve (children and the general public respectively) appreciably worse. A publishing union less than a hundred people in size for a company that sells stuff to niche hobbyists isn't anything to fear.
You quote Morrus' mod text, and then go on to cast aspersions on police and teachers unions. As a teacher, and proud union member (NEA - National Education Association), I take pretty strong offense from that.

As others have pointed out, unions are organizations filled with humans (by nature, flawed humans), and certainly can be bureaucratic, incompetent, and corrupt . . . just like corporations, government agencies, and even non-profits. No organization is perfect, and certainly some organizations have serious issues.

But there is no way in hell I'll ever teach in any school that isn't unionized through the NEA or the AFT (American Federation of Teachers), the two largest teachers unions in the US. Neither of which is perfect, but neither of which is corrupt.
 

Ixal

Hero
All the talk about doing whatever the employees want because they deserve it sounds certainly nice, but the question is can Paizo afford it?
Patfinder 2E does not seem to go all that well, at least compared to 1E and Starfinder seems to do even worse.
And there was that recent uproar which also caused several people to stop buying Paizo (or rather cancel their subscription) because of various stuff.
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
Nah, I think you are just chewing sour grapes because Paizo took design decisions you dont agree with. I dont like the direction of PF2 either, but its a fine game for the good folks that like it. Designed by 4E folks too, which many folks consider a stellar example of modern design. It would be a little conspiracy theory for me to think some oppressive minority in management is forcing antiquated games on people because of some unrelated work environment issues.
I can see why you would feel that way.

The way I took the comment was more along the lines of the thinking that most writers should NOT be their own editors - they won't crop out stuff that needs cutting, won't let go of their one killer concept, etc. If the people reading the feedback are the same people who are deciding if any changes are made, then there's always a risk that no editing or changes will be made..

Not to open a can of worms by invoking Star Wars, but just consider the first 1977 film. Look at the reworking Lucas did due to comments made by his friends. Look at the way that the famous opening crawl is pretty legendary now - that was rewritten by Brian DePalma. And it's more than pretty good.
 

ruemere

Adventurer
Nah, I think you are just chewing sour grapes because Paizo took design decisions you dont agree with. I dont like the direction of PF2 either, but its a fine game for the good folks that like it. Designed by 4E folks too, which many folks consider a stellar example of modern design. It would be a little conspiracy theory for me to think some oppressive minority in management is forcing antiquated games on people because of some unrelated work environment issues.
I do hope you're right and it's just me being unreasonably negative.
Still, as the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire, and the fact that Paizo staffers attempts to unionize themselves, means that something's rotten in a state of Denmark.

4E being stellar example of modern design? It has been released in 2008, so you have a pretty relaxed standard of what constitutes modern :)
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
Lets see if Paizo survives this.
All the talk about doing whatever the employees want because they deserve it sounds certainly nice, but the question is can Paizo afford it?
Patfinder 2E does not seem to go all that well, at least compared to 1E and Starfinder seems to do even worse.
And there was that recent uproar which also caused several people to stop buying Paizo (or rather cancel their subscription) because of various stuff.
This is a good thing. It is very unlikely for Paizo to go under because of this. The recent allegations against the heads of Paizo are almost definitely the root of this course of action by the workers at Paizo. If the allegations are true, this union is a good thing. The workers need more rights and the heads of Paizo need to be held responsible for the things they did.

If anything, the call to boycott Paizo products in the aftermath of the allegations could make Paizo even more likely to recognize the union. However, that depends on them actually taking a hit from those.

It would be sad if Paizo went under because of this, but if the work conditions are as toxic as Jessica Price said, they probably deserve too.
 

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