Workers at Card Kingdom, one of the world’s largest Magic: The Gathering trading card game retailers, are exhausted by poor pay and safety violations at work. And now they could be faced with their workplace moving 35 miles northeast to Monroe, Washington.
Workers at the Ballard-based company voted 111–16 to join the union UFCW Local 3000 last July.
Kosmo Parker, a worker at Card Kingdom, said that the first organizing discussions focused on the lack of climate control in the warehouse, which could lead to temperatures in the building being 10 degrees hotter than outside. As unionization efforts picked up pace, concerns broadened to a variety of other areas, such as arbitrary management and poor pay.
One of the most salient reasons for the union drive was the alleged lack of enforcement of workplace safety regulations.
Card Kingdom workers handle various tasks throughout the work day, including locating, storing, organizing and shipping thousands of Magic cards. Parker said that this has led to a high rate of workers reporting repetitive stress injuries on the job, including xyrself.
“It leads a lot of people’s bodies to deteriorate fast, leads a lot of people to fatigue, myself included,” Parker said. “Dealing with the repetitive stress injuries with my shoulder makes it difficult for me to not only do my job, but it makes it a challenge for me to do things when I’m at home.
“For instance, I’m having challenges just like sweeping and vacuuming my apartment,” xe said, “because I don’t have the whole range of motion in my arm from doing the same job over and over again at work. But I’m not the only one, people are coming into work — they have to have elbow braces, shoulder braces, back braces, neck braces, wrist braces. ...
“But when it is a thing that keeps happening over and over again and you see yourself and your coworkers, your body’s like constantly breaking down and you’re not getting any sort of work from the employer to make this workplace a little bit more sustainable … it’s very frustrating to feel disposable in this way,” xe said.
Parker said that the company could do more to prevent injuries, such as providing ergonomic equipment or allowing workers more variety in their tasks. Xe added that management monitors breaks and has also asked workers to work overtime.
On Oct. 12, the Occupation Health and Safety Administration issued Card Kingdom a $400 fine for violating the electrical safety code.
Parker added that Card Kingdom does not provide additional compensation for workers who illustrate custom tokens, a type of Magic card.
“It’s more framed as a privilege to be able to be on this token team,” xe said. “But essentially, it’s on-the-clock time that people do these custom art requests for customers. So you’re not paid for the art; you’re just paid for the time that you’re on the clock.”
Adding to these many grievances, UFCW 3000 also protested against news that the company could move its operations from Ballard to Monroe. On Twitter, the union said that many existing workers would be unable to commute there. On June 27, workers picketed outside Mox Boarding House, a subsidiary of Card Kingdom.
Card Kingdom did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Mark Ochsner, another worker at Card Kingdom, said that the company exploits workers’ passion for Magic and gaming to continue to treat its workers badly.
“I feel like sometimes our employer can use our employees’ enthusiasm for Magic: The Gathering and enthusiasm for the gaming community, and the desire to have a robust and big gaming community here in Seattle specifically,” he said.
Read more of the July 5-11, 2023 issue.