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US Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama file to hold unionization vote

02:55  24 november  2020
02:55  24 november  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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SEATTLE — Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama have filed a notice to hold a unionization vote , in what could be a major labor To file the NLRB notice, the union needed to have cards authorizing the RWDSU to represent them in collective bargaining signed by at least 30 percent

Amazon allegedly recruited operatives from Pinkerton to keep tabs on workers ' unionization activities in Europe, according to a trove of internal The reports allegedly reveal how Amazon recruited operatives from Pinkerton to monitor workers ' labor and union-organizing activities around Europe.

SEATTLE — Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama have filed a notice to hold a unionization vote, in what could be a major labor battle against a company that has long opposed the unionization of its workforce.

An Amazon distribution center. (Photo by DAVID BECKER/AFP via Getty Images) © David Becker/AFP/Getty Images An Amazon distribution center. (Photo by DAVID BECKER/AFP via Getty Images)

Employees at a newly opened Amazon facility in Bessemer, Ala., notified the National Labor Relations Board that they want to hold an election to create a bargaining unit that would cover 1,500 full-time and part-time workers. The group seeks to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

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Amazon may have some issues with the conditions in its warehouses , but some employees in its Delaware warehouse aren't interested in unionizing While this only represents a small subset of that warehouse 's workers (1,500 more work as packers and shippers), it was the first unionization vote

An Amazon employee who was leading efforts to unionize workers in Staten Island is taking legal action against the company for firing him last month. If the company doesn’t want to recognize the union, then workers will have to hold an official unionization vote through the National Labor

While much of Amazon’s warehouse staff in Europe belongs to unions, the company has successfully fought off employees at its U.S. facilities. A small group of equipment maintenance and repair technicians at the company’s Middletown, Del., warehouse rejected union representation from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in 2014, after a hard-fought battle with the company.

Meanwhile, Amazon logistics employees around the world have voiced concerns about their safety during the coronavirus pandemic over the past few months.

Lawyers for the workers didn’t return calls or emails seeking comment. And RWDSU spokeswoman Chelsea Connor declined to comment. A website created by the union encourages Bessemer warehouse workers to join the organizing drive to secure not just better pay, but also improved safety standards.

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“The workers at Amazon faced intense pressure from managers and anti-union consultants hired to Amazon brought in a law firm that specializes in fighting off organized labor. It also held employee meetings during Warehouse workers in Germany have walked out several times over wage issues.

A committee of employees at Amazon ’s recently opened Staten Island fulfillment center is going public with a unionization campaign, a fresh Now workers in a another borough are saying the company treats them like robots and should be focused on improving conditions there rather than raking in tax

“We face outrageous work quotas that have left many with illnesses and lifetime injuries,” the union said on the site. “With a union contract, we can form a worker safety committee, and negotiate the highest safety standards and protocols for our workplace.”

Amazon needs its workers more than ever, giving them leverage to push for safer warehouses

Amazon counters that its warehouses are safe and that it pays a minimum wage of $15 an hour, as well as offering such benefits as health care, vision and dental insurance, spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said in an emailed statement.

“We don’t believe this group represents the majority of our employees’ views."

(Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The effort did win immediate support from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“All workers are entitled to decent wages and working conditions, which is why I stand with the Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama exercising their constitutional right to form a union,” Sanders tweeted. “Mr. Bezos, the wealthiest person in America, must not interfere in this election.”

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Amazon said Monday it plans to hire an additional 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers amid a surge in online orders due to the coronavirus outbreak. The company is looking to add extra full-time and part-time positions for warehouse and delivery workers .

(Bloomberg)—A committee of employees at Amazon ’s recently opened Staten Island fulfillment center is going public with a unionization campaign, a fresh Now workers in a another borough are saying the company treats them like robots and should be focused on improving conditions there rather than

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The Bessemer warehouse is among the newer Amazon facilities. It began operating in March and is one of dozens of new logistics sites the company has opened since the pandemic began to address the surge in online buying caused by consumer reticence to shop in person.

The notice of the workers’ filing with the labor board offers few details about the effort. In addition to listing the location and number of employees that would be part of the bargaining unit, the filing notes that the union would cover “All hourly full-time and regular part-time fulfillment center employees including leads and learning ambassadors.” It would exclude truck drivers, clerical, maintenance and engineering employees, and supervisors, among others.

To file the NLRB notice, the union needed to have cards authorizing the RWDSU to represent them in collective bargaining signed by at least 30 percent of the proposed negotiating unit, said Rebecca Givan, a labor studies professor at Rutgers University. But she noted that very few unions would file for a union vote without “a very strong majority” of cards signed, or support at the Alabama warehouse from well over 750 workers.

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And it’s particularly notable that the effort is in Alabama, a state that is seen as hostile to organized labor, Givan said.

“That this is happening in a deeply anti-union state is really bold,” Givan said.

Amazon can contest the size and composition of the proposed bargaining unit. And it can raise questions over the authorization cards. Givan anticipates Amazon will use all the tools at its disposal to beat back the union drive.

“We can expect a full-court anti-union press,” Givan said.

Top Amazon executive quits over the firings of warehouse workers and climate activists

Amazon fired a worker at a Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse who helped organize a protest raising concerns about unsafe working conditions at the facility in March. Amazon said it fired the worker after he ignored a request from his manager to stay home because of his contact with a worker who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Workers at several Amazon’s U.S. facilities have raised concerns during the pandemic about their safety, protesting in front of the company’s warehouses to demand better pay and safer working conditions. Amazon offered workers a temporary $2 an hour wage bump in March, though it eliminated that pay hike at the end of May.

And weeks after the pandemic began, the company instituted social distancing workplace rules to protect employees, as well as providing them with face masks and offering coronavirus testing sites at some of its facilities.

Workers protest at Instacart, Amazon and Whole Foods for health protections and hazard pay

Efforts to fight the union drive has its own perils. Some of Amazon’s technical workers have offered support for their warehouse co-workers, including top software engineer and vice president Tim Bray, who quit Amazon in May to protest the company’s firing of warehouse workers, as well as climate activists.

And consumers still view warehouse staff as essential, said Joshua Freeman, a labor history professor at Queens College at the City University of New York.

The union “may have a moral edge,” Freeman said. “Covid hasn’t gone away.”

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