Amazon and Labor

In late Fall of 2018, after a nationwide bidding war with other large metropolitan cities, Ecommerce and tech giant Amazon decided to build its second North American headquarters in Long Island City, Queens.

In return for almost $3 billion in subsidies from the City, Amazon has promised a variety of things to give back to the surrounding communities. Among its promises are 25,000 new jobs, according to Curbed NY.

Amazon has a torrid history with regard to labor, and a number of New York unions have taken notice. In the company’s nearly 30 years of operation, they have avidly fought against unionization, even when there is record of employees fighting to do so. Citing poor working conditions, long hours, and poor work culture, a number of unions have teamed up to generate activism for Amazons workers. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union along with Teamsters have come out in full force in the name of employee advocacy.

According to Crain’s New York Business, the two unions wrote of Amazon in a series of letters to the Governor and Mayor:

“The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has joined the battle over Amazon’s second headquarters. In letters to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the truckers’ union has teamed up with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to highlight the Seattle giant’s “well-documented record of anti-worker, anti-union behavior” and “deadly and dehumanizing working conditions.” They are asking the elected leaders to “work with us to ensure that Amazon changes the way it operates.”

In response to the public response of Amazon coming into a union stronghold like New York, the company contractually agreed to use union labor for the construction end of their project, but according to the Daily News, both unions remain unconvinced that the company will change its ways:

“As a nod to New York’s still-strong labor movement, the company also agreed to use union workers to both build its new facility and help staff it and keep it maintained — but those terms don’t quite stand up to full scrutiny, according to the Teamsters and RWDSU.

The Building Trades Council’s deal to have union laborers construct the Long Island City headquarters is actually inked with third-party contractor — as is SEIU 32BJ’s contract for maintenance and other services.

Amazon itself remains untouched by a direct labor agreement as part of its deal, the Teamsters and RWDSU said.”

Links below:

Force labor-busting Amazon to change course: Their hostility to unions should be the last straw breaking the back of this rotten deal

Teamsters join fight against Amazon HQ2

AMAZON CAME TO THE BARGAINING TABLE—BUT WORKERS WANT MORE

Employees at Amazon’s New NYC Warehouse Launch Union Push

No union, no deal, NYC labor leaders tell Cuomo and de Blasio about Amazon’s new HQ

Amazon workers in New York just announced their plan to unionize

Labor Day 2018

Labor Day has its roots snared in the concrete of thousands of cities and in the hearts of countless communities. The holiday was established to champion the rights of the American worker, and to highlight the importance of improving the American work culture-wages, workers rights, labor laws, and working conditions. One cannot talk about the labor movement without talking about the employees who continue to carry on its legacy.

A day for the worker established by the worker, the first Labor Day Parade was held in New York City almost 130 years ago in 1882. This is nothing short of fitting, since New York has remained one of the most unionized states throughout history. In 1887, New York had officially recognized Labor Day as a holiday and 12 years after the first Parade, in 1894, President Grover Cleveland made it a national holiday. This was in response to the chaotic Pullman Strike, deemed as a catalyst in the labor movement. “It had started when the Pullman Palace Car Company lowered wages without lowering rents in the company town, also called Pullman.”, according to The New York Times. This elevated to a larger movement after railway unions decided to no longer work on Pullman cars, causing chaos throughout the transportation industry.

Fast forward 124 years, the labor movement is still thriving. This is due in large part to the voices unions give their employees through collective bargaining-which still, from time to time, culminates into strikes. The good that unions do for employees and the importance of the labor movement has not been lost in current events-even Janus v. AFSCME, a U.S. Supreme Court case overturning mandated union fees, has not slowed unions. When the verdict came down in spring of 2018, it made mandating union fees unconstitutional under the 1st amendment. It’s main plaintiff, Mark Janus, argued that due to the way that unions work-they are political in nature, as well as that he didn’t want union lobbying for political ideas he didn’t support.

These are the same dues that help with representation for grievance proceedings, collective bargaining, and other main functions of unions. While right-to-work proponents thought they would hit unions where it hurt, many unions actually saw a huge uptick in full-dues paying members-particularly unions for teachers.

Below are links to a number of articles summarizing the rich history of Labor Day. To all employees and laborers everywhere, thank you for your hard work!

The History of Labor Day

What to know about the history of celebrating Labor Day

History of Labor Day: Why it’s celebrated, how it started