Workers at TCGplayer, the popular marketplace for Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, are trying to unionize for the second time. Should the vote go through, workers there will have formed the first union at eBay, which acquired TCGplayer last year. Workers presented the petition to management Wednesday morning before filing with the National Labor Relations Board.
TCGplayer workers previously tried to unionize in March 2020, with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), but the petition was withdrawn days before the vote. This time, they’re trying with Communications Workers of America, which has partnered with tabletop and card game retailers Noble Knight Games and Card Kingdom’s Mox Boarding House, and a growing number of video game studios in other unionization efforts.
The unit will include more than 280 non-managerial workers in the authentication center, covering jobs like sorting, research, quality, shipping, and other operations. This group of people touch all the cards that come through TCGplayer.
“The eBay acquisition was a fire under a lot of people,” inventory specialist Lindsey Gancasz told Polygon. “It encouraged a lot of people to start thinking about unionization. The last union efforts didn’t succeed, but people have still been focused on creating a better workplace for everyone. I love — and I know a lot of my coworkers love — the place we work. And with a lot of unknowns, we want to ensure that what makes it a good place to work continues to stay that way. With the union, we can get those conditions in writing and advocate for ourselves.”
Workers began organizing again in 2022, before bringing in CWA for assistance. They’re looking to secure better pay and benefits that can’t be arbitrarily taken away; increased transparency over hiring and promotions; and, in general, have a say in how they’re compensated and treated for their labor. Pay hasn’t kept up with inflation, workers said, and they want management to acknowledge how it’s impacted the people that keep things running.
“Unions are important in every industry,” shipper generalist Jennifer Bonham told Polygon. “It’s the workers on the ground level that are responsible for a company functioning. It’s humane for us to have a seat at the table and determine what conditions, what compensation, what benefits we have.”
TCGplayer has long been one of the biggest marketplaces for trading cards. But its business grew exponentially over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as interest in trading cards boomed. TCGplayer founder and CEO Chedy Hampson announced in a news release in 2021 that it raised $35 million in funding with “triple digital growth” over the previous year. Ebay acquired TCGplayer, once a competitor, for $295 million in October 2022. TCGplayer employs more than 600 people across its business, which remains an independent storefront. TCGplayer has its office and authentication center in Syracuse, New York.
Cards increased in value over the past few years, and, beyond the audience that plays these games and collects these cards, many wanted to cash in on that popularity. Card grading company Professional Sports Authenticator had to halt its service in 2021 after being overwhelmed by card submissions. Card values have decreased since the height of the pandemic, but certain cards still go for top dollar.
Since TCGplayer was founded in 1998, it has authenticated more than 115 million trading cards — 32 million in 2021 alone — on top of everything else the company does and sells. The 280 workers in the authentication center are the people processing cards through every step; there is a physical toll to the job, both in terms of repetitive stress and the physical work of packing and shipping thousands of cards.
“We are experts in our field,” Gancasz said. “We go through specialist training to do what we do. It involves training, it involves a lot of knowledge to do what we do. We know our jobs best, and we want to be heard and be part of the decisions that are made.”
Update: A representative from eBay provided the following statement to Polygon:
At eBay, we exist to connect people and build communities. This starts with our employees and it’s how we bring our purpose to life every day. We value the talent and contributions of every employee — empowering each individual to grow with us.
eBay respects the right of our employees to choose or refuse union representation. That said, we are proud that our unwavering commitment to employee-focused values has built a culture throughout our company where thousands of employees use their voice, ideas, and talents together, in collaboration with each other, toward a shared objective, without union representation.
TCGplayer shares eBay’s employee focused values and commitment to building a workplace culture that gives employees a voice and opportunity to actively shape their future — and the future of the business. As TCGplayer joins eBay, we are confident the TCGplayer employees will feel that same connection and contribute to our shared success.