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Months after 300 workers at a trading card retailer owned by eBay voted to unionize, the e-commerce giant removed language from its human rights policy statement that committed the company to honor workers’ decisions to unionize and to bargain in good faith.
A group of investors, led by city Comptroller Brad Lander and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, are now urging the e-commerce giant’s board of directors to reinstate the language and reaffirm the company’s commitment to worker rights.
“In the spirit of upholding eBay's legacy as an ethical, transparent, and trusted company, we renew our request that the Board take steps to ensure that management fully complies with its commitments to respect fundamental workers’ rights,” the comptrollers wrote in a joint letter sent this month to Ebay's board. “We also urge the Board to promptly restore the publicly stated expression of its values and these commitments, once a hallmark of the company’s Human Rights Policy.”
The letter was the second that the pair have written to the company this year. In June, Lander, DiNapoli and several other shareholders wrote a letter expressing concern with eBay's treatment of workers at TCG Player, a marketplace of cards from popular games like Magic: The Gathering, Yu Gi Oh and Pokémon, after those workers accused management of several unfair labor practices.
In a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, workers alleged that eBay managers made subtle threats about what would happen to the workers if they unionized, surveyed employees to determine who supported unionization, refused to bargain and held captive audience meetings. The company bought TCG Player in late 2022 and the workers there vote to unionize in March, becoming the first group of workers at eBay to win a union.
In the June letter, DiNapoli and Lander argued that eBay was failing to live up commitments outlined in the company’s own human rights standards. Specifically, the duo highlighted a passage, since removed, in eBay’s human rights policy statement that said the company “also respects workers’ rights to unionize and commits to bargain in good faith with any relevant associations or labor unions.”
The deletion spurred Lander and DiNapoli to write their follow-up letter.
“It is particularly troubling that this change coincided with a unionization effort within a recently acquired subsidiary and occurred after investors expressed concerns about management's compliance with the now-deleted provision,” the comptrollers wrote in the Nov. 13 letter. “This sequence of events may lead some eBay employees and shareholders to believe that the company has rescinded its commitment to uphold workers' fundamental human rights to form a union and engage in collective bargaining, especially those who are not familiar with the global human rights instruments that eBay claims to respect.”
The New York City and New York State pension funds together hold 2.5 million shares in the company. Trading at around $41.45 this week, the shares are worth about $103.6 million.
eBay did not respond to a request for comment. The company did not recognize the TCG player workers union until August and as of September the workers had not yet begun bargaining.
"When companies are accused of acting contrary to their stated principles and policies, it prompts concerns among shareholders,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “eBay should be working to build constructive and positive bonds with its workforce, not removing commitments to fundamental human rights.”
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