Employees working in Amazon’s new Staten Island fulfillment center have announced their intention to unionize, reports Bloomberg. Through a partnership with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the employees said that they’re aiming to address numerous issues, including safety concerns, lengthy unpaid security checks, unreasonable hourly quotas, and insufficient breaks.
The unionization effort comes in the wake of Amazon’s recent HQ2 announcement, which will see it invest $2.5 billion in a major new campus in Queens, New York, over the next 15 years. Reports that the company received more than $2 billion in tax breaks have generated concern from local communities and lawmakers. Sentiment the union hopes to you use to its advantage.
“If Amazon continues its union-busting activities in New York, they should call off the deal.”
The recent leak of a so-called anti-union training video from the company has also generated controversy. This video, which is used to train employees at fulfillment centers, encourages managers to look out for signs of organizing activities such as distributing petitions and fliers or showing an “unusual interest in policies, benefits, employee lists, or other company information.” Although the video draws the line at managers doing anything illegal, it encourages them to express personal opinions against unions such as, “Unions are lying, cheating rats.”
The emergence of this training video drew harsh criticism from Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who sent a letter to Amazon saying that raising the minimum wage of its employees to $15 an hour doesn’t, “give you [Amazon] a free pass to engage in potentially illegal anti-union behavior.” Back in October, Amazon raised the minimum wage of all its 250,000 US workers to $15 an hour.
RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said that in light of the tax incentives attached to the Queens campus, these alleged “union-busting activities” need to stop.
There’s never been greater leverage -- if taxpayers are giving Amazon $3 billion, then taxpayers have the right to demand that Amazon stop being a union-busting company… It’s incumbent upon the governor and the mayor to make sure that nothing happens to these workers who are standing up for their rights. If Amazon continues its union-busting activities in New York, they should call off the deal.
Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center just opened its doors this fall, but the RWDSU has been quick to meet workers in person and contact them over social media. Even outside of Amazon, unions in the US retail space are still relatively uncommon, with just 5 percent of retail employees holding membership.