Bandcamp United, the union elected in May to represent Bandcamp employees, has filed a claim with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Songtradr and Epic Games, claiming the two companies violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 by engaging in unfair labor practices. Songtradr finalized their acquisition of Bandcamp from Epic Games in September, triggering mass layoffs at the music distribution platform earlier this month.
The October 16 layoffs put 58 Bandcamp employees out of work (roughly half of the company’s staff), including three of the six non-management staffers at its in-house publication, Bandcamp Daily — as well as eight elected members of the union’s collective bargaining committed and 40 of 67 members of its collective bargaining unit, per a press release announcing the claim. According to the release, the layoffs occurred four days after the committee met with Songtradr CEO Paul Wiltshire to “discuss the future of Bandcamp United at Songtradr.”
The union’s demands are as follows: “employment offers for all workers; clear, consistent, and equitable voluntary severance offers; and recognition of their union at Songtradr with a speedy continuation to bargaining, while maintaining all the progress that has been made at the table.” The press release notes that the collective bargaining committee “will return to the table with Epic Games management on November 9th to bargain over details of severance for those who have been laid off.”
The FADER has reached out to representatives of Songtradr and Epic Games for comment on Bandcamp United’s claim, which is backed by the larger Office and Professional Employees International Union.
When reached for comment, an OPEIU rep clarified the claim’s legal implications: If the claim moves forward, it will be investigated by an agent for the NLRB before the board rules on whether Songtradr and Epic Games have violated the NLRA. If the companies are found in violation of the act, the board (a government entity) has the power to enforce the rehiring of laid-off employees and/or remedial pay for lost work. The rep added that, in an ideal scenario, Songtradr and Epic Games would preempt such a scenario by complying with Bandcamp United’s demands.
Read statements from the union’s bargaining team as a whole and two of its members below.
“Being elected to the Bandcamp United collective bargaining committee was a great honor, and I’m tremendously proud of the work we accomplished in our time together. We continue to fight for the future of Bandcamp but it is incredibly disappointing to see Epic and Songtradr discard that work, and our unit’s democratically-elected leaders.” - ed. blair, support team and Bandcamp United bargaining team member
“As sudden and painful as this rupture has been, it is very much in keeping with the state of the tech industry right now. As the face of the unit, in our meetings with Epic Games management, we were looking forward to ratifying our contract and securing a better Bandcamp for workers and artists alike. Our team has been together for a short time and it feels like a lifetime. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and grateful to OPEIU Local 1010 for their boundless help, support and camaraderie.” — Bandcamp United bargaining team
“I voted for our Collective Bargaining Committee to represent the needs of my colleagues to Bandcamp management. There has been little transparency from Epic and Songtradr about their decision-making criteria throughout this process, and it’s hard to see how this hiring decision could have been made randomly.” - Rochelle Shipman, bargaining unit member
Correction [October 31, 5:45 p.m.]: A previous version of this post listed the number of previous Bandcamp Daily employees as five, not six.