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Workers at Paizo unionize, a first for the tabletop role-playing game industry

‘Allegations of managerial impropriety’ listed among their concerns

A blue dragon guards his hoard from a group of adventurers in the key art from the Pathfinder second edition. Image: Ekaterina Burmak/Paizo Publishing
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Workers at Paizo, publisher of the Pathfinder and Starfinder tabletop role-playing games, have formed a union. United Paizo Workers (UPW) was created with the help of the Communication Workers of America (CWA), which has been working these last few years to organize labor in the video game industry. This represents a first for the tabletop role-playing sector, which is currently not served by organized labor in any major way.

“Paizo is one of the largest tabletop roleplaying publishers in the world, producing more than 10 hardcover books annually, along with numerous digital adventures and gaming accessories,” UPW said Thursday in a news release. “Paizo also runs some of the most successful living campaigns in tabletop gaming history, with regular players in more than 36 countries. However, despite this success, Paizo’s workers are underpaid for their labor, required to live in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, and subjected to untenable crunch conditions on a regular basis.”

Paizo, which is headquartered outside Seattle in Redmond, Washington, recently came under fire from former employee Jessica Price on Twitter, who alleged unfair hiring and disciplinary practices, unclean working conditions, sexual harassment, and verbal abuse while at the company. Her accusations and those of other former employees were cited in workers’ decision to organize.

“Though efforts to organize by the Paizo workforce had already been underway for some time, the sudden departures of several long-standing employees in September and the subsequent allegations of managerial impropriety by former Paizo employees threw into stark relief the imbalance of the employer/employee relationship,” UPW’s news release states. “These events, as well as internal conversations among Paizo workers, have uncovered a pattern of inconsistent hiring practices, pay inequity across the company, allegations of verbal abuse from executives and management, and allegations of harassment ignored or covered up by those at the top. These findings have further galvanized the need for clearer policies and stronger employee protections to ensure that Paizo staff can feel secure in their employment.”

Thursday’s news release was signed by more than 30 current Paizo employees on the organizing committee, including the lead designers of both Pathfinder and Starfinder. A spokesperson for the company tells Polygon it currently has about 80 full-time employees.

Polygon reached out to CWA for comment on today’s announcement, but the organization declined to add any more information.

We also reached out to Paizo to ask if it will voluntarily recognize the union or if it will force a full vote by the National Labor Relations Board. It declined to comment at this time.

Update (Oct. 15): A Paizo spokesperson confirmed its count of full-time employees. We’ve updated our original story to include that information.