Two New York comptrollers have lambasted e-commerce company eBay for scrubbing pro-union and workers rights language from their human rights policy. New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli recently published a letter warning eBay that its actions threaten to further erode worker trust, along with that of shareholders, during a year stained by adversarial, anti-union decisions.
eBay acquired TCGPlayer in October of last year, paying roughly $295 million for one of the most well-known trading card game marketplaces in the industry - it regularly trades and sells Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon Trading Card Game, Yu-Gi-Oh! and more. The acquisition left many key executives in place, which agitated an already aggrieved workforce who attempted to unionise in 2020 but were stymied by C-suite intervention.
A collective of TCG authenticators and other workers began filing official complaints with the NLRB as soon as the acquisition went public. Staff cited low, stagnant wages, poor disability accommodations and a lack of representation in business decisions that they were now afraid would be further ignored now that TCGPlayer would be part of a much larger corporate structure. TCGunion-CWA filed a union petition in January of this year and won their election in March. The relationship between the union and eBay management since has been fraught with allegedly illegal stalling actions and a general unwillingness to bargain in good faith.
Lander and DiNapoli’s letter to eBay’s board of directors (which you can read here) points out that one key sentence was recently removed from the company’s Human Rights Policy Statement: “eBay also respects workers’ rights to unionise, and commits to bargain in good faith with any relevant associations or labour unions.” While still visible via the Internet Archive’s cached version, circa June 2023, the sentence had disappeared by August.
“Companies thrive when their workers are supported and respected,” Lander said in a press release. “The stealthy removal of the language expressly referencing fundamental freedom of workers to unionise threatens eBay’s legacy and deepened our concern as shareholders. Either eBay ignored our previous concerns or responded by removing the language about respect for workers' rights and good faith bargaining without telling anybody–I'm not sure which would be worse. We urge the board to genuinely engage with us now. and I am thankful to Comptroller DiNapoli for his commitment to ensuring that we hold companies accountable for their promises.”
“When companies are accused of acting contrary to their stated principles and policies, it prompts concerns among shareholders,” DiNapoli added. “eBay should be working to build constructive and positive bonds with its workforce, not removing commitments to fundamental human rights. Alongside Comptroller Lander, we encourage companies to uphold their commitments on labour rights, safeguarding employees and shareholder value. We strongly urge eBay to do just that."
The letter published by DiNapoli and Lander urge eBay’s leadership to restore the language in their policy and begin meeting the TCGunion-CWA at the bargaining table with respect, something the union and other elected officials say has yet to happen. eBay was forced to recognise its workers’ union on August 15th after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rejected the company’s multiple attempts to overturn an official vote, along with dismissing an appeal of the NLRB’s initial rejection.
Comptrollers Lander and DiNapoli have good reason to slap eBay on the wrist, given both the New York State and New York City pension funds hold a collective 2.5 million shares in the company that was last valued at $111 million dollars. Those funds provide retirement security for more than one million people and is one of the largest public pension plans in the United States.
TCGunion-CWA’s bargaining committee last submitted 25 meeting dates with management in an attempt to move forward on resolving myriad pay issues, improving disability and generally improving the lives of workers at all levels. According to a thread on X from mid-October, eBay management accepted just one of those dates. The union has reportedly only met with management twice since winning its election in March.