We are not anti-union, butwe are not neutral either.
Well, we understand unions work insome industries, they would conflict with our culture, customer obsessionand direct working relationship.
Throughout Amazon’s 25-year history, therehave been multiple rumblings of workers trying to unionize.
The people united willnever be defeated.
But none of thoseefforts have been successful.
Amazon remains nonunion, in part bytraining its managers how to handle union efforts, like in this video, whichwas sent to Whole Foods managers in 2018.
We do not believe unions are inthe best interest of our customers, our shareholders, or mostimportantly, our associates.
Efforts by big businesses to fendoff organized labor are increasingly common in America, while unionmembership has dropped considerably since its heyday 50 years ago.
But with record-breaking sales numbersand newly doubled shipping speeds, momentum to organize has pickedup among some of Amazon’s more than 650, 000 worldwide employees.
We work, we sweat, Amazonworkers need a rest.
Three big unions that are talking toAmazon workers are the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers Unionand the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, among others.
Last year, the CEO of Axel Springerasked Jeff Bezos his stance on unions.
We don’t believe that we need a unionto be an intermediary between us and our employees.
But of course, at the end ofthe day, it’s always the employees’ choice, and that’s how it should be.
No organizing efforts havegotten very far.
We wanted to find out: what are unionsall about and how could they impact Amazon and its workers.
First off, what exactly are unions? A union is a membership organizationthat exists because a group of employees share a common interest.
Most of today’s major unions formed inthe late 19th and early 20th century so that they couldbargain collectively against the huge organizations that they worked for.
Each union collects a different amountof dues from its members, usually around 1 to 1.
5% of each paycheck.
And there’s often an initiation fee whenyou first join a union shop.
They don’t have investors.
They don’t raise moneyfor profit, unlike corporations.
The reason why unions typically charge duesis the same reason why every other membership organization, whether it’sthe National Rifle Association or the American Civil Liberties Unioncharge dues is because they undertake to provide servicesto their members.
Certainly they will pay for administrativecosts, the salaries of the union organizer or the union reps, but theyalso go to the union national as well.
So some certainly larger, moreinstitutional unions have their own national politicallobbying interests.
And even if union members don’t agreewith the message that their unions are sending nationally or politically, thosedues are still going to be used for those typesof lobbying efforts.
And if you’re able to unionize anentire workforce, that is millions of dollars that goes intothe union coffers.
In 1935, the National Labor RelationsAct was passed protecting the rights of employees to act together asa group in the workplace.
It prohibits employers from firing orretaliating against an employee for organizing.
The National Labor RelationsBoard is the federal agency tasked with enforcing these rights andall unionizing efforts must go through an official filingprocess with the NLRB.
It’s the unions that, you know, brought us the weekend.
It’s the unions that helped getrid of child labor.
Unions had their heyday in the U.
almost 50 years ago with 381 majorstrikes that resulted in work stoppages in 1970.
Last year, there were only 20.
Unions have been under a concertedattack from businesses and even from within government.
So it’s no surprise that today inthe private sector, only about 6.
5% of workers are unionized.
That’s down from, it used to bewell over a third in the 1970s.
Total compensation for union workers, including things like benefits and retirement, costs employers on average 14dollars more per hour worked versus paying a nonunion worker.
So companies do a lot of work and paya lot of money to make sure that their ability to form unions isnot done very efficiently or easily.
A Pew Research Center poll last yearshowed 55% of Americans hold a favorable view of unions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics foundthat last year, unionized workers made on average $191 or more than22% more than nonunion workers each week.
But unionizing comeswith downsides, too.
It makes communication very difficultsometimes between the employees and the employer because after a union isbrought in under the National Labor Relations Act, the employer is nolonger allowed to directly deal with employees.
It’s also verydifficult to innovate.
They may have different ideas forpolicies, different ways of doing things that they just wantto experiment with.
And with a union in place.
It makes it really difficult to dothat because everything has to be negotiated with the unionat that point.
So companies routinely complain that havinga union means that the supervisor can’t talk tothe workers directly.
And that is simply false.
Unionizing starts with workers, usually froma single work site like one Amazon fulfillment center talking amongstthemselves outside of work hours, often holding informal meetingsand discussing shared concerns.
If momentum builds, workers then selecta union they feel best represents their interests.
In Amazon’s case, workers have talkedto the Teamsters, UFCW and RWDSU.
We have in fact talked to hundredsand hundreds of workers around the country in different locations.
They called the union andsaid, ‘We’ve got problems.
Can you help us?’ If there’s enough support, workersthen sign union cards.
The employer then has the choiceto voluntarily recognize the union.
If that doesn’t happen and it often doesn’t, a date is set for an official election where asimple majority wins.
At that point, many employers chooseto run an anti-union campaign.
If this vote fails, that union isbanned from organizing workers at the site for a year.
Amazon workers we talked to expressed opinionson both sides of the union debate.
But whether Amazon workersare currently signing authorization cards is a closely guarded secret.
The only thing that you can doon an organizing campaign is operate under surprise.
If an employer knows thatyou’re signing cards and doing things like that, they will comeafter them tooth and toenail.
Amazon workers need a rest.
The most recent example of workersand unions taking action happened on Prime Day in July, when a handfulof Amazon workers at one fulfillment center outside Minneapoliswent on strike.
We are trying to be one and we are, you know, it’s not like we don’t want to work here, butwe just want change.
It was the first strike by U.
workers during the company’s annual salesevent that started five years ago.
About 80 people gathered in supportof the workers who chose to walk out past a line of around20 security guards and police.
In Shakopee, workers held other ralliesin March and December calling for better working conditions.
Amazon says the workforce atthe 855, 000-square-foot fulfillment center there is 30% Somali.
We’ve done a lot to help.
Like do you need a prayer mat, doyou need a prayer space, like let’s get one set up.
But other workers complain aboutworking conditions, things like allotted time off task and theexpected pace of work.
They should make this a betterworkplace by reducing rates, improving worker safety and bringing our temp brothersand sisters on as full time employees.
Management demands thebest from its workers.
Now we want their best.
Politicians like Bernie Sanders and ElizabethWarren tweeted in support of the strike, and three software engineersflew in from Amazon headquarters to join the protest.
Without its employees, Amazondoes not exist.
We are all partners in its success.
We deserve a say in how theresults of our success, Amazon’s profits and its innovations, are being used.
The protest was organized by theAwood Center, an East African worker advocate group that’s backed in partby the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union, along withlocal labor groups like the Minneapolis RegionalLabor Federation.
The people who participated in today’sevent are mainly outside organizers who are uninformed about what it’s reallylike to work inside an Amazon fulfillment center.
With only 15 employees who participated fromthis site, that tells me that our employees truly do believe that theyare working in a safe and innovative workplace.
If only a couple of handfuls ofworkers at Amazon walked out in solidarity and the vast majority didn’t, doesn’t say a whole lot.
They’re always thinking in the backof their head, there’s probably going to be retaliation if Igo out there.
If I go out there, I’m going to benamed as one of the union organizers.
Amazon respects the rights of our employeesand we have a zero tolerance policy on retaliation foremployees raising their concerns.
Although the Prime Day protests got alot of media attention, Amazon said it did not impact operations and thatthis year’s Prime Day was the largest shopping eventin Amazon history.
Earlier this month, dozens of workersstaged a walkout at an Amazon delivery center in Eagan, Minnesota, over alack of parking that led to workers cars being towed.
We’re going to be standing outhere until we get a solution.
Shortly after, Amazon agreed to provideadditional parking and repay towing fees.
Amazon workers are under attack.
What dowe do? Stand up, fight back.
Last year, workers held a seriesof protests in New York with the backing of RWDSU callingfor unionization after Amazon announced plans to bring itssecond headquarters to Queens.
Within three months.
Amazon withdrew its HQ2 offer from the city.
If Amazon had lived up to the deal thatthey had agreed to with us and the governor of New York, it would haveshown a model that could be used elsewhere.
I think that’s whatAmazon was afraid of.
In a press release at the time, Amazon cited different reasons, saying, “A number of state and local politicians havemade it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work withus to build the type of relationships that are required to goforward with the project.
” After Amazon bought Whole Foods in2017, workers there also showed signs of organizing.
Last September, The Wall Street Journalreported that a group of Whole Foods workers sent an e-mail to workersat most of the 490 stores urging them to back a unionization drive.
The UFCW sent CNBC 15 public statementsfrom Whole Foods workers over the last two years, laying out concernsabout time off, training, workload and staff shortages.
In a statement, Amazon says, “No teammember has decided to join a union anywhere at Whole Foods Market.
Selective accounts from a smallhandful of individuals doesn’t accurately represent the collective views ofour amazing 95, 000+ team members.
The last official unionization attemptwas in 2013, when Amazon maintenance and repair technicians inDelaware officially filed with the NLRB.
The union was voteddown 21 to 6.
Unions have been trying to organize Amazonsince the early 2000s and it really just seems like there aren’t verymany workers who want to join a union at Amazon because if theydid, they would have organized them already.
Well, I don’t think it’s that simplebecause as soon as there’s any word that authorization cards are beingpassed around, the companies generally send out their HR people to tryto quash whatever effort that labor organization may be doing inorder to sign workers up.
Workers at other big retailers havealso failed to unionize in recent years.
Last year, workers at a Target storein New York voted 118 to 39 against forming a unionunder UFCW.
WalMart has successfully held off UFCWunionizing efforts for years.
In Europe, where unions have a strongerfoothold, Amazon workers also remain nonunion.
But workers there have beenmore active, staging protests during sales events for years.
In Germany, more than 2, 000 peopleparticipated in Prime Day protests in at least seven locations last month.
Well, I think that it’s very likelythat they’re going to unionize in Europe.
I think it is difficult tounion in the United States, especially with a company the size of Amazon, for the following reason: our labor laws aren’t nearly as progressive.
Our social contract with workers is notas strong here in the United States.
Among developed democracies, the U.
has one of the lowestpercentages of unionized workers.
5 % of wage and salaryworkers are members of unions.
Compare that to Finland and Denmark, wheremore than 60% of workers are unionized.
Still, some of Amazon’scontract workers in the U.
are already unionized, like this AmazonAir pilot who was at the protest in Shakopee.
Being part of a union that’s workingwith one of the most powerful corporations in the world, it can be daunting.
It’s going to be a lot of workat the beginning, but I think the dividends will pay off in the long run.
Amazon’s response to workerswho want to unionize.
We’re already offering what unions areasking, which is industry leading pay, great benefits and asafe and innovative workplace.
Among Amazon workers we talked to, sometold us they’re happy with their current situation.
I like the direct communication with my teamand I always want that to be there.
So like, hey, if we have to doa change, we can do it right away.
That’s our big, like Amazon I thinkthat’s like why we’re so successful is we can pivot if we need.
And like make sure that we’re alwayskeeping a focus on our customers both internally andexternally as well.
And I don’t think that really workswith our union kind of environment.
But that’s just my personal opinion.
Well, I have excellent healthcare, excellent dental, excellent vision.
I have a retirement plan now.
You know, I didn’t have that before.
I love my job.
I love the benefits.
I love the people I work with.
While we’ve been building a greatcustomer experience, we’ve been equally focused on building a great employeeexperience, whether that’s where you get egalitarian benefits, where I havethe same benefits as everybody else in this building does, orour career choice program.
Our $15-an-hour minimum that werolled out in the U.
Amazon is also known forhelping associates advance.
Its career choice program pays up to 95%of tuition for associates study in high demand fields.
And last month, Amazon pledged to spend$700 million to retrain a third of its U.
workforce by 2025 to moveto more advanced jobs.
Money is one big reason experts toldus that Amazon prefers its workers not to join a union.
If the union contract says that theyhave to slow down how fast they’re sorting through packages and things likethat, then they’re either going to have to bring on a hugenumber of more employees, which is certainly costly, or they’re going to have toonly deliver things in a week’s time and then you’re going tolose your competitive advantage.
Workers who vocally support unionsare protected by the NLRB.
And so the company will find areason to fire the union organizers.
They know it’s illegal.
When it’s ultimately adjudicated, the companywill be ordered to reinstate the fired employee with backpay, but thecompany will say, ‘”Meh, the cost of doing business, ” and the longtermpay off is no union.
We are not robots.
One worker who protested in New Yorkwas fired a month later for what Amazon said was anunrelated safety violation.
He’s now filed acomplaint with the NLRB.
Any sort of campaign there are goingto be those types of charges.
So doesn’t necessarily mean that they’rebeing targeted because of their union activism.
It could just very well beemployees who have performance problems, don’t follow the rules and are nowchoosing to claim that they’re being retaliated against.
The NLRB also has open caseswith Amazon in Ohio, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Washington, Illinois and inShakopee, Minnesota, the site of last month’s Prime Day protest.
Amazon is not alone.
In 2014, the NLRB filed aformal complaint charging WalMart illegally fired, disciplined or threatened more than60 employees in 14 states.
5 million U.
employees, WalMart is thecountry’s largest private employer.
Unionizing efforts succeeded only onceat WalMart when meat department workers at one store in Texasjoined the UFCW in 2000.
But two weeks later, WalMart announcedit was switching to prepackaged meat and eliminated butchers atthat store at 179 others.
And in 2015, WalMart closed five storesthat the UFCW says was in retaliation for labor activism.
If you see warning signs ofpotential organizing, notify your building HR M and GM site leader immediately.
At Amazon, where efforts haven’t come asfar, this 2018 leaked Whole Foods video illustrates some ways companieshope to prevent unionizing efforts.
Make it a point to regularly talkto associates in the break room.
This will help protect you from accusationsthat you were only in the break room to spyon Pro Union Associates.
The video that Amazon put outthat was discouraging workers from unionizing is classic union busting material we seeover and over again at companies all across this country.
And what it’s designed to dois basically have a chilling effect.
It’s not hard to imagine how far aunion organizer might go to get you to sign their card.
We hope that you never have to dealwith a union organizing drive in your facility.
That type of education formanagers is fairly common.
I mean, they don’t know what they’re ableto say and what they’re not able to say under the law.
It can be very tricky.
So certain types of training, I thinkis actually a really good idea.
Amazon is also recruiting a handfulof Employee Relations Managers who are required to have significant experiencein handling union organizing activities, and they’ll be respondingto union activity, among other duties.
On Twitter, a group ofAmazon employees known as Fulfillment Center Ambassadors actively tweet about howmuch they love working at Amazon, often in response to threadsabout poor treatment of Amazon workers.
Some FC Ambassadors havetweeted messages like, “Unions are thieves, ” and “Union protection makes ithard for employers to discipline, terminate or promote.
How likely it is thatAmazon workers will unionize.
Depends largely on who you ask.
That’s going to be very tough.
They have never ending resources and moneyto make sure that the workers never get to come to thebargaining table with a union.
So I think it’s going tobe a long uphill battle.
So it might be difficult to organizeemployees around issues such as wages.
But then there are other issues, such as productivity and job safety, automation, that warehouse employees across thecountry at Amazon might be interested in.
And if the unions are able to kindof galvanize on that, I think that could make it really difficult forAmazon to keep their workplace union free.
And if Amazon workers do unionize, itwould impact a wide range of industries.
Amazon is a retailer, butit’s also a transportation company.
It’s a media company.
It’s, you know, inthe pharmaceutical business.
I mean, it would reverberate all acrossthe economy and provide hope for working people everywhere.
I think this wouldhave a huge impact.
The tech industry has notbeen strongly unionized at all.
And if a companylike Amazon were unionized.
My guess is that other tech-basedemployers would also face similar types of unionization movements.
So this could very well be thetype of foothold that unions are looking for when they’re trying tounionize the entire tech industry.