A group of workers at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse want to unionize, according to a report by Bloomberg.
The news is another complication for Amazon in a city where it plans to build a brand-new campus. Amazon plans to invest $2.5 billion and recruit 25,000 people in the city in the next 15 years.
One point of contention is the fact that some New York City politicians were shut out of negotiations with Amazon held by the governor and mayor. Those lawmakers raised concerns and objections about the project and its potential to not only overload the city’s mass transit system, but also drive up rents in the area, which are already expensive.
The workers who want to unionize are raising concerns about working conditions. They say the company treats them like robots and should focus on workers, and not tax breaks for a new headquarters.
The Amazon employees have partnered with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The RWDSU says the $3 billion in incentives that Amazon received is good leverage to stop company retaliation for attempting to unionize.
“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,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “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.”
Among worker complaints: safety concerns, 12-hour shifts with not enough breaks, unreasonable hourly quotas, lost wages from waiting in long lines for security checks and inadequate pay.
“They talk to you like you’re nothing – all they care about is their numbers,” said Rashad Long, who makes $18.60 an hour and commutes four hours a day to work. “They talk to you like you’re a robot.”
The RWDSU has been meeting with workers in person and through social media. Appelbaum said he wouldn’t discuss specifics about how Amazon workers were going to get union recognition, but that the company should address worker concerns by sitting down with workers and their representatives.
In response, an Amazon spokesperson sent the following statement via email: “Amazon associates are the heart and soul of our operations, and we respect employees’ right to choose to join or not join a labor union. Amazon maintains an open-door policy that encourages employees to bring their comments, questions and concerns directly to their management team for discussion and resolution. We firmly believe this direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our workforce.”