On March 10, eBay subsidiary TCGPlayer formed eBay’s first union. TCGPlayer is an online marketplace for card games like “Magic: The Gathering,” “Yu-Gi-Oh!” and “Pokémon.” They also sell comic books and card game accessories. Employees in TCGPlayer’s Syracuse authentication center voted 136-87 on Friday to become a part of Communications Workers of America Local 1123 (CWA). The TCGPlayer Union, known as TCGUnion-CWA, are the first eBay or eBay-owned property employees to gain union representation.
The efforts to unionize began in 2020, when they received support from public figures like Senator Bernie Sanders. This vision of confluence was not well-received by TCGPlayer, as they began a union-busting disinformation campaign in response. The unionization efforts were dissolved as a result of the pandemic.
TCGPlayer continued to fight against unionization at their company. In January, CWA filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the company, claiming that supervisors were “illegally surveilling union activity.” CWA added that “multiple TCGPlayer supervisors and managers, including the CEO, have patrolled the floor of the authentication center, taking note of employees who have worn any clothes or insignia identifying them as supporters of [the union]” via their Twitter account.
All employees, who are responsible for packing, sorting, shipping and more, will be a part of TCGUnion-CWA (except for managerial staff). One worker at TCGPlayer praised the creation of the union, adding that workers are ready to “take on a more active role in determining the conditions of our work to ensure a better quality of life for ourselves, and a better quality of service for our customers.” After years of attempting to unite the coalition, this worker added that she was “excited to finally have a seat at the table … and the protections provided by our union to ensure fairness and dignity in the workplace.” Shortly before the successful unionization effort at TCGPlayer, CWA filed another complaint against the company. This filing claims that TCGPlayer was threatening workers who supported a union and holding mandatory anti-union efforts.
TCGPlayer employees are still awaiting a response from the National Labor Relations Board, the independent government body that “protects the rights of private sector employees to join together.”
In response to the formation of TCGUnion-CWA, TCGPlayer released a statement, saying they are “disappointed our Authentication Center team members in Syracuse have decided to end their direct relationship with TCGPlayer,” and in a possible act of aggression, an overnight team member and union organizer named Iris was terminated from her position, and was denied her Weingarten rights that provide union members right to representation at investigatory meetings. In a post on Twitter, TCGUnion-CWA said that “we want to be clear that nobody has been fired for organizing,” and mentioned that “this is not the ‘end of a direct relationship,’ it’s the beginning of something greater, with a voice in how we are treated. And we know our community has our backs!”
In response to the stack of allegations against TCGPlayer, many customers, including TCGPlayer partners, have taken to social media to show solidarity with the union and announce boycotts of TCGPlayer products. TCGUnion-CWA itself has not called for a boycott of TCGPlayer products, adding that they “respect the right to choose who you support with your money, but we aren’t calling for a boycott of any sort, and would prefer to work WITH TCGPlayer to develop our contract ASAP. The ONLY way forward is together.” TCGUnion-CWA has yet to negotiate a contract with TCGPlayer, but workers have said that their next goal is to do so.
This is a massive victory for both TCGPlayer workers and players. For workers, this means better working conditions and the ability to bargain with management for fair treatment. Unions are great, and having a union at one of eBay’s subsidiaries could lead to a cascade of unions at other eBay-owned companies, which means that even more workers can reap the benefits of collective bargaining. This is also a victory for all trading card game players. It means that “Magic” players, “Yu-Gi-Oh!” Players and “Pokémon” players get to enjoy the games they love without feeling guilty about buying cards from an immoral company. The formation of this union is a win for workers at TCGPlayer, a win for workers everywhere and a win for those who enjoy the card games that TCGPlayer helps them play.