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Noble Knight Games workers head to a vote after tabletop retailer denies voluntary union recognition

The Wisconsin-based retailer will now hold an official election to ratify the nascent union.

Logo for Noble Knight Games United, a union for the Wisconsin based tabletop games retailer.
Image credit: Noble Knight Games United

Owners of popular tabletop game retailer Noble Knight Games told workers currently forming a union that the company would not voluntarily recognise their effort, relegating its fate to a formal election.

Noble Knights Games United announced their intentions to form a union with the Communication Workers of America in a press release on October 31st, joining a growing list of other companies within both the tabletop and video game space taking part in collective bargaining.

Noble Knight Games is a Wisconsin-based company that claims to be among the largest retailers of board games, tabletop RPGs and related titles in the world, specialising in older and out-of-print titles. According to the press release, a supermajority of at least 70% of workers had already signed union cards, expressing their support in more worker-based control of company decisions.

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Specifically, the members of the company’s warehouse and storefront - roughly numbering 75 people - want a contract that will secure them “improved compensation and affordable benefits” along with “a healthy work-life balance, fair and transparent policies and procedures, and maintaining appropriate, viable workplace conditions and expectations.”

According to ICv2, Noble Knights Games’ ownership informed the union and CWA on November 2nd that they would not voluntarily recognise the union and thus begin arguing a contract in good faith. This is an uncharacteristically quick decision, given only three days have passed since NKG United went public.

Employees will now take part in a formalised vote, which opens up the doors for anti-union propaganda and other union-busting efforts from the company’s ownership. Starbucks locations attempting to unionise have faced no end of these kinds of tactics in recent months, though Paizo workers were spared that during their successful formation last year.

Fitchburg, Wisconsin news outlet The Cap Times reported that Noble Knight Games employees typically earn between $13 and $15 dollars, well below what minimum wages should be in the US when adjusting for inflation and a figure that one anonymous worker said makes life ““a struggle in Madison.”

Employee statements in NKG United’s press release describe conditions that are distressingly similar to anyone following the explosion of union formation across the US over the last few years. They used vacation time to deal with, or avoid, COVID-19 during the pandemic’s first brutal spike, and one worker claims hardly anyone can afford the healthcare options offered by ownership.

“Nearly every department is overworked and regularly mandated overtime, but we also need that overtime just to pay rent. We have a 401k matching option, but no one can afford to make use of it,” one comment reads. Along with new hires earning more than longtime employees, conditions sounds very similar to those at Card Kingdom before their union successfully won an election earlier this summer.

Dicebreaker has reached out to Noble Knight Games ownership and NKG United for comment.

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