The People Who Make Pathfinder Are Forming Tabletop RPG’s First Big Union

The People Who Make Pathfinder Are Forming Tabletop RPG’s First Big Union
Image: Paizo Inc.

Over 30 employees of Pathfinder and Starfinder publisher Paizo Inc. today announced the formation of the United Paizo Workers union with support from the Communication Workers of America, the largest media labour union in the United States. United Paizo Workers is the first union of its kind in the tabletop role-playing industry.

“Unions have helped build a stronger working class in America and I’m proud to stand with United Paizo Workers,” said Paizo editor Shay Snow via press release. “I believe that when we all work together, we’re better for it. Unionization allows workers to have a seat at the table and ensures that our voices and concerns are being heard and addressed so that all of Paizo can move forward for a positive future.”

Based in Redmond, Washington, Paizo is one of the world’s largest publishers of tabletop role-playing games, often considered a direct competitor to Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast. In fact, the company was founded to publish the long-running, official D&D magazines Dungeon and Dragon before Wizards of the Coast declined to renew the licenses in 2007. Paizo subsequently began work on its own role-playing game, Pathfinder, publishing the paper-and-pencil adventure’s first book in 2009.

“Paizo runs some of the most successful living campaigns in tabletop gaming history, with regular players in more than 36 countries,” the United Paizo Workers press release goes on to explain. “However, despite this success, Paizo’s workers are underpaid for their labour, required to live in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, and subjected to untenable crunch conditions on a regular basis.”

The workers who have signed their names to the United Paizo Workers union announcement range from game designers and editors to software developers and engineers.

Paizo was heavily criticised earlier this year for the firing of Sara Marie, a 12-year veteran of the company who handled customer service and community management. Diego Valdez, who worked under Marie, resigned shortly after, blasting the company for the “cowardly nature” of Marie’s firing and its lack of “managerial competence and integrity” on his way out the door.

This all came to a head when former employee Jessica Price published a lengthy Twitter thread accusing Paizo executives of (among other things) sexual harassment, fighting against diversity efforts within the company, and firing Marie for pushing back against the toxic work environment these actions fostered. Paizo president Jeff Alvarez initially sidestepped these claims before promising vague improvements in a follow-up statement.

“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,” the Paizo union announcement continues. “These findings have further galvanised the need for clearer policies and stronger employee protections to ensure that Paizo staff can feel secure in their employment.”

United Paizo Workers is calling on the rest of the tabletop role-playing community for support in its efforts and urges Paizo management to voluntarily recognise the union ahead of negotiations.

“Changes have been promised, internally and externally, by the executive team,” the press release concludes. “However, the only way to ensure that all workers’ voices are heard is collective action. It is in this spirit that the workers of Paizo have united to push for real changes at the company.”

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