How Amazon Fends Off Unions

How Amazon Fends Off Unions


We are not anti-union, but
we are not neutral either. Well, we understand unions work in
some industries, they would conflict with our culture, customer obsession
and direct working relationship. Throughout Amazon’s 25-year history, there
have been multiple rumblings of workers trying to unionize. The people united will
never be defeated. But none of those
efforts have been successful. Amazon remains nonunion, in part by
training its managers how to handle union efforts, like in this video, which
was sent to Whole Foods managers in 2018. We do not believe unions are in
the best interest of our customers, our shareholders, or most
importantly, our associates. Efforts by big businesses to fend
off organized labor are increasingly common in America, while union
membership has dropped considerably since its heyday 50 years ago. But with record-breaking sales numbers
and newly doubled shipping speeds, momentum to organize has picked
up among some of Amazon’s more than 650,000 worldwide employees. We work, we sweat, Amazon
workers need a rest. Three big unions that are talking to
Amazon workers are the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union
and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, among others. Last year, the CEO of Axel Springer
asked Jeff Bezos his stance on unions. We don’t believe that we need a union
to be an intermediary between us and our employees. But of course, at the end of
the day, it’s always the employees’ choice, and that’s how it should be. No organizing efforts have
gotten very far. We wanted to find out: what are unions
all about and how could they impact Amazon and its workers. First off, what exactly are unions? A union is a membership organization
that exists because a group of employees share a common interest. Most of today’s major unions formed in
the late 19th and early 20th century so that they could
bargain collectively against the huge organizations that they worked for. Each union collects a different amount
of dues from its members, usually around 1 to 1.5% of each paycheck. And there’s often an initiation fee when
you first join a union shop. They don’t have investors. They don’t raise money
for profit, unlike corporations. The reason why unions typically charge dues
is the same reason why every other membership organization, whether it’s
the National Rifle Association or the American Civil Liberties Union
charge dues is because they undertake to provide services
to their members. Certainly they will pay for administrative
costs, the salaries of the union organizer or the union reps, but they
also go to the union national as well. So some certainly larger, more
institutional unions have their own national political
lobbying interests. And even if union members don’t agree
with the message that their unions are sending nationally or politically, those
dues are still going to be used for those types
of lobbying efforts. And if you’re able to unionize an
entire workforce, that is millions of dollars that goes into
the union coffers. In 1935, the National Labor Relations
Act was passed protecting the rights of employees to act together as
a group in the workplace. It prohibits employers from firing or
retaliating against an employee for organizing. The National Labor Relations
Board is the federal agency tasked with enforcing these rights and
all unionizing efforts must go through an official filing
process with the NLRB. It’s the unions that, you know,
brought us the weekend. It’s the unions that helped get
rid of child labor. Unions had their heyday in the U.S. almost 50 years ago with 381 major
strikes that resulted in work stoppages in 1970. Last year, there were only 20. Unions have been under a concerted
attack from businesses and even from within government. So it’s no surprise that today in
the private sector, only about 6.5% of workers are unionized. That’s down from, it used to be
well over a third in the 1970s. Total compensation for union workers,
including things like benefits and retirement, costs employers on average 14
dollars more per hour worked versus paying a nonunion worker. So companies do a lot of work and pay
a lot of money to make sure that their ability to form unions is
not done very efficiently or easily. A Pew Research Center poll last year
showed 55% of Americans hold a favorable view of unions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found
that last year, unionized workers made on average $191 or more than
22% more than nonunion workers each week. But unionizing comes
with downsides, too. It makes communication very difficult
sometimes between the employees and the employer because after a union is
brought in under the National Labor Relations Act, the employer is no
longer allowed to directly deal with employees. It’s also very
difficult to innovate. They may have different ideas for
policies, different ways of doing things that they just want
to experiment with. And with a union in place. It makes it really difficult to do
that because everything has to be negotiated with the union
at that point. So companies routinely complain that having
a union means that the supervisor can’t talk to
the workers directly. And that is simply false. Unionizing starts with workers, usually from
a single work site like one Amazon fulfillment center talking amongst
themselves outside of work hours, often holding informal meetings
and discussing shared concerns. If momentum builds, workers then select
a union they feel best represents their interests. In Amazon’s case, workers have talked
to the Teamsters, UFCW and RWDSU. We have in fact talked to hundreds
and hundreds of workers around the country in different locations. They called the union and
said, ‘We’ve got problems. Can you help us?’ If there’s enough support, workers
then sign union cards. The employer then has the choice
to voluntarily recognize the union. If that doesn’t happen and it often doesn’t,
a date is set for an official election where a
simple majority wins. At that point, many employers choose
to run an anti-union campaign. If this vote fails, that union is
banned from organizing workers at the site for a year. Amazon workers we talked to expressed opinions
on both sides of the union debate. But whether Amazon workers
are currently signing authorization cards is a closely guarded secret. The only thing that you can do
on an organizing campaign is operate under surprise. If an employer knows that
you’re signing cards and doing things like that, they will come
after them tooth and toenail. Amazon workers need a rest. The most recent example of workers
and unions taking action happened on Prime Day in July, when a handful
of Amazon workers at one fulfillment center outside Minneapolis
went on strike. We are trying to be one and we are,
you know, it’s not like we don’t want to work here, but
we just want change. It was the first strike by U.S. workers during the company’s annual sales
event that started five years ago. About 80 people gathered in support
of the workers who chose to walk out past a line of around
20 security guards and police. In Shakopee, workers held other rallies
in March and December calling for better working conditions. Amazon says the workforce at
the 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center there is 30% Somali. We’ve done a lot to help. Like do you need a prayer mat, do
you need a prayer space, like let’s get one set up. But other workers complain about
working conditions, things like allotted time off task and the
expected pace of work. They should make this a better
workplace by reducing rates, improving worker safety and bringing our temp brothers
and sisters on as full time employees. Management demands the
best from its workers. Now we want their best. Politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth
Warren tweeted in support of the strike, and three software engineers
flew in from Amazon headquarters to join the protest. Without its employees, Amazon
does not exist. We are all partners in its success. We deserve a say in how the
results of our success, Amazon’s profits and its innovations, are being used. The protest was organized by the
Awood Center, an East African worker advocate group that’s backed in part
by the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union, along with
local labor groups like the Minneapolis Regional
Labor Federation. The people who participated in today’s
event are mainly outside organizers who are uninformed about what it’s really
like to work inside an Amazon fulfillment center. With only 15 employees who participated from
this site, that tells me that our employees truly do believe that they
are working in a safe and innovative workplace. If only a couple of handfuls of
workers at Amazon walked out in solidarity and the vast majority didn’t,
doesn’t say a whole lot. They’re always thinking in the back
of their head, there’s probably going to be retaliation if I
go out there. If I go out there, I’m going to be
named as one of the union organizers. Amazon respects the rights of our employees
and we have a zero tolerance policy on retaliation for
employees raising their concerns. Although the Prime Day protests got a
lot of media attention, Amazon said it did not impact operations and that
this year’s Prime Day was the largest shopping event
in Amazon history. Earlier this month, dozens of workers
staged a walkout at an Amazon delivery center in Eagan, Minnesota, over a
lack of parking that led to workers cars being towed. We’re going to be standing out
here until we get a solution. Shortly after, Amazon agreed to provide
additional parking and repay towing fees. Amazon workers are under attack. What do
we do? Stand up, fight back. Last year, workers held a series
of protests in New York with the backing of RWDSU calling
for unionization after Amazon announced plans to bring its
second headquarters to Queens. Within three months. Amazon withdrew its HQ2 offer from the city. If Amazon had lived up to the deal that
they had agreed to with us and the governor of New York, it would have
shown a model that could be used elsewhere. I think that’s what
Amazon was afraid of. In a press release at the time,
Amazon cited different reasons, saying, “A number of state and local politicians have
made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with
us to build the type of relationships that are required to go
forward with the project.” After Amazon bought Whole Foods in
2017, workers there also showed signs of organizing. Last September, The Wall Street Journal
reported that a group of Whole Foods workers sent an e-mail to workers
at most of the 490 stores urging them to back a unionization drive. The UFCW sent CNBC 15 public statements
from Whole Foods workers over the last two years, laying out concerns
about time off, training, workload and staff shortages. In a statement, Amazon says, “No team
member has decided to join a union anywhere at Whole Foods Market. Selective accounts from a small
handful of individuals doesn’t accurately represent the collective views of
our amazing 95,000+ team members. The last official unionization attempt
was in 2013, when Amazon maintenance and repair technicians in
Delaware officially filed with the NLRB. The union was voted
down 21 to 6. Unions have been trying to organize Amazon
since the early 2000s and it really just seems like there aren’t very
many workers who want to join a union at Amazon because if they
did, they would have organized them already. Well, I don’t think it’s that simple
because as soon as there’s any word that authorization cards are being
passed around, the companies generally send out their HR people to try
to quash whatever effort that labor organization may be doing in
order to sign workers up. Workers at other big retailers have
also failed to unionize in recent years. Last year, workers at a Target store
in New York voted 118 to 39 against forming a union
under UFCW. WalMart has successfully held off UFCW
unionizing efforts for years. In Europe, where unions have a stronger
foothold, Amazon workers also remain nonunion. But workers there have been
more active, staging protests during sales events for years. In Germany, more than 2,000 people
participated in Prime Day protests in at least seven locations last month. Well, I think that it’s very likely
that they’re going to unionize in Europe. I think it is difficult to
union 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 not
as strong here in the United States. Among developed democracies, the U.S. has one of the lowest
percentages of unionized workers. Only 10.5 % of wage and salary
workers are members of unions. Compare that to Finland and Denmark, where
more than 60% of workers are unionized. Still, some of Amazon’s
contract workers in the U.S. are already unionized, like this Amazon
Air pilot who was at the protest in Shakopee. Being part of a union that’s working
with one of the most powerful corporations in the world,
it can be daunting. It’s going to be a lot of work
at the beginning, but I think the dividends will pay off in the long run. Amazon’s response to workers
who want to unionize. It’s unnecessary. We’re already offering what unions are
asking, which is industry leading pay, great benefits and a
safe and innovative workplace. Among Amazon workers we talked to, some
told us they’re happy with their current situation. I like the direct communication with my team
and I always want that to be there. So like, hey, if we have to do
a change, we can do it right away. That’s our big, like Amazon I think
that’s like why we’re so successful is we can pivot if we need. And like make sure that we’re always
keeping a focus on our customers both internally and
externally as well. And I don’t think that really works
with 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 great
customer experience, we’ve been equally focused on building a great employee
experience, whether that’s where you get egalitarian benefits, where I have
the same benefits as everybody else in this building does, or
our career choice program. Our $15-an-hour minimum that we
rolled out in the U.S. Amazon is also known for
helping 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.S. workforce by 2025 to move
to more advanced jobs. Money is one big reason experts told
us that Amazon prefers its workers not to join a union. If the union contract says that they
have to slow down how fast they’re sorting through packages and things like
that, then they’re either going to have to bring on a huge
number of more employees, which is certainly costly, or they’re going to have to
only deliver things in a week’s time and then you’re going to
lose your competitive advantage. Workers who vocally support unions
are protected by the NLRB. And so the company will find a
reason to fire the union organizers. They know it’s illegal. When it’s ultimately adjudicated, the company
will be ordered to reinstate the fired employee with backpay, but the
company will say, ‘”Meh, the cost of doing business,” and the longterm
pay off is no union. We are not robots. One worker who protested in New York
was fired a month later for what Amazon said was an
unrelated safety violation. He’s now filed a
complaint with the NLRB. Any sort of campaign there are going
to be those types of charges. So doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re
being targeted because of their union activism. It could just very well be
employees who have performance problems, don’t follow the rules and are now
choosing to claim that they’re being retaliated against. The NLRB also has open cases
with Amazon in Ohio, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Washington, Illinois and in
Shakopee, Minnesota, the site of last month’s Prime Day protest. Amazon is not alone. In 2014, the NLRB filed a
formal complaint charging WalMart illegally fired, disciplined or threatened more than
60 employees in 14 states. With 1.5 million U.S. employees, WalMart is the
country’s largest private employer. Unionizing efforts succeeded only once
at WalMart when meat department workers at one store in Texas
joined the UFCW in 2000. But two weeks later, WalMart announced
it was switching to prepackaged meat and eliminated butchers at
that store at 179 others. And in 2015, WalMart closed five stores
that the UFCW says was in retaliation for labor activism. If you see warning signs of
potential organizing, notify your building HR M and GM site leader immediately. At Amazon, where efforts haven’t come as
far, this 2018 leaked Whole Foods video illustrates some ways companies
hope to prevent unionizing efforts. Make it a point to regularly talk
to associates in the break room. This will help protect you from accusations
that you were only in the break room to spy
on Pro Union Associates. The video that Amazon put out
that was discouraging workers from unionizing is classic union busting material we see
over and over again at companies all across this country. And what it’s designed to do
is basically have a chilling effect. It’s not hard to imagine how far a
union organizer might go to get you to sign their card. We hope that you never have to deal
with a union organizing drive in your facility. That type of education for
managers is fairly common. I mean, they don’t know what they’re able
to say and what they’re not able to say under the law. It can be very tricky. So certain types of training, I think
is actually a really good idea. Amazon is also recruiting a handful
of Employee Relations Managers who are required to have significant experience
in handling union organizing activities, and they’ll be responding
to union activity, among other duties. On Twitter, a group of
Amazon employees known as Fulfillment Center Ambassadors actively tweet about how
much they love working at Amazon, often in response to threads
about poor treatment of Amazon workers. Some FC Ambassadors have
tweeted messages like, “Unions are thieves,” and “Union protection makes it
hard for employers to discipline, terminate or promote. How likely it is that
Amazon workers will unionize. Depends largely on who you ask. That’s going to be very tough. They have never ending resources and money
to make sure that the workers never get to come to the
bargaining table with a union. So I think it’s going to
be a long uphill battle. So it might be difficult to organize
employees around issues such as wages. But then there are other issues,
such as productivity and job safety, automation, that warehouse employees across the
country at Amazon might be interested in. And if the unions are able to kind
of galvanize on that, I think that could make it really difficult for
Amazon to keep their workplace union free. And if Amazon workers do unionize, it
would impact a wide range of industries. Amazon is a retailer, but
it’s also a transportation company. It’s a media company. It’s, you know, in
the pharmaceutical business. I mean, it would reverberate all across
the economy and provide hope for working people everywhere. I think this would
have a huge impact. The tech industry has not
been strongly unionized at all. And if a company
like Amazon were unionized. My guess is that other tech-based
employers would also face similar types of unionization movements. So this could very well be the
type of foothold that unions are looking for when they’re trying to
unionize the entire tech industry.

100 thoughts on “How Amazon Fends Off Unions”

  1. It is amazing that these corporations can get away with firing and threatening employees who speak up for trying to unite to protect themselves. That is terrifying that Amazon can actually say in their training videos, aka anti-union propaganda, "to use the POWER of SILENCE."

  2. The union laws are old, not applicable to today's high rate of change. Change the union laws and you will see unions pop up more!

  3. They lobby for national socialism. thats what they do. the funny thing is you think they are primarily democrats. but if you learn the history of pre-war Germany, you will learn the truth.

  4. Union is good but if they become corrupt the product becomes expensive, trains here in the US are as expensive as planes, it is not worth to use train at all.

  5. Amazon wants slaves to work and if you don't want to work they will give you one time money to leave the company say $10K etc.

  6. Or they will replace them with robots…wait they already are. Unions would be great if your dues didn't pay union leader salaries. Like if unions was a true collection of workers trying or negotiate their salaries organically then no problem. Negotiate your own salary and benefits if you have value. Don't need a union for that.

  7. John F Kennedy said of unions:

    "Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor. But their work goes beyond their own jobs, and even beyond our borders." — John F. Kennedy, Aug. 30, 1960

    Personally I have had greater chances for pay, fair treatment, promotion, and decent working hours in unionized shops than I ever have in non-unionized businesses. An individual worker is alone and easy to replace, easy to substitute, and has little bargaining power. The business has all of the coercive power, and the worker is but a tiny ant compared to the corporate Goliath. As we all know ants are far more formidable as part of a colony, than when isolated and vulnerable as would be a lone ant.

  8. Unions have a place but not everywhere. Unions gave a dark side. I work in oil and gas construction and deal with Union and non union contractors. Work quality, safety and working conditions are the same, the client enforces safety and working conditions while I enforce the quality. Pay is competitive and even the same on prevailing wage work. The union companies will bring in companies using illegals, that are uninsured and dangerous as subcontractors to save money. They abuse nonunion workers to save their union workers. One I work with regularly has 4-5 employees that routinely no call no show, sleep on site and refuse to do work (operators refusing to operate certain pieces of equipment that they normally operate) and they can't be touched. I don't see the benefit day to day.

  9. nfl nba nhl players have a union. no one cries socialism when its for the benefit of millionaires but when its for hard working people being exploited and barely making the payments to live….slavery is back in the USA

  10. Those somalis complaining about the labor situation in Minnesota do not even have a legit working government in their own country.

  11. I work directly with Union members in new York.

    Super lazy guys

    I have friends who are in EU struggling to find jobs.

    Union anyone.

  12. Why do they ask a Manger and a easy packer job how's it going??? Ask people who are really doing hard jobs at Amazon

  13. 1 min in and I have to say… If the people trying to organize are the ones writing chants… Well… No wonder they haven't unionized yet.. M

  14. 14:30….many other options….
    Won't take a week to deliver. Ask usps and ups.
    Whoever interviews these people needs to be fired. The follow up questions are clearly lacking

  15. The problem with unions is, they have long since ceased to be about the workers. Today, unions are lobbyists on Capital Hill, not lobbying for the workers but for the interests of the unions themselves. TSA, SEIU, UAW, CTA, UFW, etc. spend their dollars, dues paid into the union, on things and politicians their workers often DO NOT support. And the union itself, grows wealthy on the backs of the workers themselves who actually have no say, in what the union does. Collective bargaining WAS and still is to some extent, a good thing. Unions have moved away from that principle.

  16. 0:45 Most depressing chart ever. Up there with the RAINforest burning. Why talk to old Unions that let our bargaining power slip away over the last 50 years. Where's Jimmy Hoffa when ya needem?

  17. Unions are the reason US jobs moved to China…there are no Unions in China and if you go on strike, they put you in a labor camp and ask you to donate your kidneys (you can't refuse)..

  18. This is the same company that refused to air condition their warehouses for years preferring to have ambulances stationed outside to take the over heated workers to the hospital to save money for years. They only started to air condition their warehouses around 2014 after the press found out and the unions attempted to organize the workers. This company, like most would institute slavery if it could. Go look at a chart and compare the decline in union membership to the drop in the middle class and a living wage. It’s a DIRECT correlation.

  19. When the recession arrives …. you will not have a job … does not matter how hard or productive you are, when the down turn happens, you are gone … read your labour history, nothing is new, it has all happened before…. you are meat for the grinder .. a leaf on the wind …

  20. Union today is different than the union in the old days. It has become corrupt and serves only the union leaders on the top. Just leave the companies you work for if you don't like the benefits and salary they offer to you.

  21. interviews with that asian guy, amazon manager and spokeswoman shows why we need better, stronger representation for workers.

  22. Underground (Metro) workers in London are unionized. As a result, the average train driver salary is around $100,000, for 30 hours week work.

  23. They need a Union…for sure!workers rights and for salary…2.00$ initiation fee for a member card.wages will go up up up..

  24. Okay, were I work we are unionized. We get awesome benefits such as 401k, pension plan (hard to find in a grocery store), guaranteed pay increase regardless of performance and free (yes FREE) no cost out of paycheck health, dental, vision and prescription.

    I would LOVE to go back to college however, what are the chances of an employer offering all those benefits under one roof with the rising cost of health and prescription coverage? Sure, I'd make more money to cover that, no doubt. Truth be told, how many companies offer pension plans now days with lifetime medical coverage (even after retirement)?

  25. It's TRUE they are scared to loose the bread from their mouth so they stay quiet and pretend that they are not for unions. They need unions!

  26. Just think that's funny that they stopped Amazon from moving to New York. And now all those people that we're hoping to get jobs don't get any and the people that stop the jobs from coming still have jobs how do you like that and then that sleaze bag Alexandria OC ask for a raise WTF I'm Confused

  27. Americans, always wanting more despite being the most desirable place to live in the entire world. Gratitude goes a long way, folks.

  28. This is kind of embarrassing Europe it's better what is doing and not America that is so embarrassing it can I do it faster enough to do that organizing.

  29. Effectively, Unions were replaced by the OSH Act of 1970(OSHA). However, Unions are still used today for Political Organizing.

  30. It’s interesting that unions are viewed a negative thing, even though, they’re the ones that assisted American quality standards across industries. If these companies are fair why use such tactics to dissuade workers from unionizing?

  31. It's simple. If you want more money then go union. If you want a lawyer backing you then go union. It's not rocket science.

  32. At 14:16 people think that Amazon is going to pay 95% of your tuition, fee's, etc — But really they will pay at MAX $3000 for full time employees, and $1500 for part time employees, per year.

  33. Just wondering why anyone would work for someone, yet demand things, if they disagree with company policies, maybe they should just go work somewhere else or become entrepreneurs.

  34. Unions are a complex issue. Many may disagree with me but I feel there are instances where a union is likely helpful, while other times it does more harm than good. There are some great laws that came from the formation of unions and their demands for a humane working environment, such as proper working hours, overtime pay, etc. That said, some companies require flexibility that unions don’t allow. It simply comes down to each company, its size, the working conditions and if they are truly in humane rather than if they simply are not the most comfortable. In the case of amazon, at least in my opinion, the hours is where I can see a need for unionization, unless amazon can adjust them properly. That said, I’m simply one person with options, not an expert

  35. Unions are completely obsoleted under current work environment. Laws and regulations are already in place to the point where we are all getting a fair share of our labor. If you are not happy you can walk out and if the employers are not happy about you they can also walked you out.

  36. Amazon is always going to be against unions; their first priority (which they are very honest about) is for every worker to work on automating away their job.

    Another reason why the $15/hr minimum wage they were forced to provide will hurt employees over the medium term.

  37. Hey, CNBC. When are you gonna start making hit pieces against Comcast. You know, your parent company voted as one of the worst companies in America.

  38. I am a Union Ironworker Local 37, Providence RI. Unionism is the best thing you can take part of as the employee. The only person who looses when the union comes to town is the greedy business owner

  39. Unions was great but now a days they are corrupt. Also the workers that joined before is different now than those who joined before. Before if members where given what they asked for they work better which was good for the business. Now Unions ask and ask but won't give an inch.

  40. Most of people is against Amazon and Jeff Bezos, but they keep on using Amazon to buy their sh*t!!! Just see American Factory and if you have an IQ over 80, you’ll understand what’s happening…

  41. the prime day strikes did absolutely nothing. their sales preceded the sales report from the previous year despite the strike.

  42. i live in a right to work state. the recent rise of pity hiring debt addled, aloof, passive aggressive, college graduate hacks makes me want to run to unions. especially, once you realize that high earners are being pushed out for said hacks and avoiding triggers becomes the new bottom line.

  43. A company that has worked for WARNED if they become a UNION they WILL close. And they DID in 4 years.
    They MOVED to Mexico.

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