Bandcamp workers today announced they are unionizing under the name Bandcamp United (BCU). It’s doubly relevant because this workforce represents everyone from engineers to journalists, working at a meeting point between music, tech, and gaming. And they’re asking artists and labels to support them.
A supermajority of Bandcamp’s US employees authorized The Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) to represent them through the unionization process, calling on parent Epic Games to administer a fair and immediate election, Bandcamp United says. The OPEIU is an AFL-CIO-affiliated union with its headquarters in NYC; it’s been operating since 1945. Minor league umpires, podiatrists, nurses, and helicopter pilots are all among its members.
It seems there’s no major reason to see the Epic Games acquisition from early last year as the impetus. Rather, Bandcamp workers are pretty clear about what they want.
From their mission statement, released today to the press:
Forming our union is critical to our ability to do our best work and make good on the promise and mission of Bandcamp. With our union, we will have a voice in our working conditions and the power to hold Bandcamp accountable to the independent artists and labels who use it—most of whom are workers just like us, and for whom Bandcamp provides vital income to help sustain their creative projects.
Bandcamp United is powered by us: designers, journalists, support staff, engineers, and more, all dedicated to the mission of Bandcamp. Many of us are ourselves independent artists, label owners, and promoters, and all of us are fans who are involved in our own music communities. We all chose to join this company as an extension of our own love for independent music, and believe that a site such as Bandcamp that aims to offer an ethical and fair alternative to the streaming economy should reflect its mission internally.
What they say they’re asking for, as they announced publicly today:
- “Fair economic conditions” … “fixing historical disparities within and across departments.”
- “Direct support and transparency” … “protecting workers who speak up.”
- As Cami Ramirez-Arau, Support Specialist writes in today’s press release, “We need a union at Bandcamp to ensure that all employees can ask management tough questions without fear of retribution.”
- “The power to hold Bandcamp accountable to the independent artists and labels who use it.”
In this age of platform capitalism, the possibility to share music on a popular unionized platform already would be unique. But Bandcamp United are going one step further, directly enlisting the support of artists and labels.
There’s a petition up asking for solidarity as they push for an election. It’s addressed to union leadership. (An email address and postal code are required. There is an opt-out email contact with Local 1010.)
I’ll see if anyone from Bandcamp United wants to speak with readers. If you have comments, let us know.
As an aside, it seems past time that artists and nightlife workers ought to show support for nurses and other critical workers after the pandemic. Here they are possibly soon as members of the same US union for a music platform.