A group of workers at Amazon's Staten Island fulfillment center are seeking to unionize, in the latest attempt by employees of the online retail giant to organize against the company's labor practices.
What are the details?Employees of the New York facility announced the union push led by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union on Dec. 12. The RWDSU issued a report Nov. 28, accusing Amazon of having a history of "deadly and dehumanizing working conditions."
In response to the pressure from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other critics, the company raised the minimum wage for each of its workers to $15 an hour, and announced its support of increasing the federal minimum wage for all U.S. workers.
Unions and citizens alike are pushing back against the billions in subsidies granted to Amazon for its new headquarters being built in New York and northern Virginia, while workers accuse the company of exploiting employees with long shifts, stringent performance quotas, and low pay.
In a joint op-ed published by Crain's New York Business on Dec. 12, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum and Make the Road New York co-executive director Deborah Axt wrote that "Amazon's rampant mistreatment of workers should disqualify the company from receiving taxpayer-funded subsidies, especially in a state like New York where unions are strong and workers continue to organize to improve their jobs."
Speaking at the announcement of the union push, Amazon worker Rashad Long said, "We are not robots. We are human beings. We cannot come into work after only four hours of sleep and be expected to be fully energized and ready to work. That's impossible," The Guardian reported.
"I feel like all the company cares about is getting their products out to the customers as quickly as humanly possible, no matter what that means for us workers in the end," Long continued.
How did Amazon respond?
In response, Amazon issued a statement saying: "To claim Staten Island workers want a union is not a fair representation of the vast majority of the employees at this site."
Amazon spokeswoman Jodi Seth added that the claims made in the RWDSU's report were not accurate.
"This so-called report is a rehash of inaccurate and exaggerated news stories spanning several years that ignore the facts," she said in a statement to The Guardian.
"Amazon makes substantial positive contributions to the economy, the communities where we operate, and to the lives and careers of our employees," Seth continued. "Amazon respects the rights of employees to choose to join or not join a labor union. We firmly believe the direct connection we have with employees is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our employees."