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.”