- The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and a handful of employees at Amazon's Staten Island fulfillment center slammed the company's labor practices Wednesday outside City Hall in New York, where meetings were taking place regarding Amazon HQ2.
- Bloomberg reported employees at an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island are pushing to unionize, claiming the company "treats them like robots."
- "Like many of the false allegations made by [RWDSU], stating that our Staten Island workers want a union is not a fair representation of the vast majority of the employees at this site," Rachael Lighty, regional manager of external communications for Amazon Operations, told Supply Chain Dive by email. She said the workers or union have not submitted any formal notice of plans to unionize.
Amazon's November announcement that one of its headquarters will be located in New York City has put the spotlight on Amazon in the city, drawing renewed attention to the e-commerce giant's operations.
RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum co-wrote an op-ed this week titled "Amazon's treatment of workers is not welcome in New York," in which he cited exploitation of employees "whether they work in corporate offices or warehouses."
The timing of RWDSU's rally with the New York City Council meetings on HQ2 is no coincidence, tying together the alleged issues at the Staten Island fulfillment center with the incoming headquarters.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health named Amazon one of its "dirty dozen" employers that put companies at risk due to unsafe practices. Workers who spoke at the rally cited issues such as long shifts, a lack of air conditioning and non-functioning sprinklers and smoke detectors in the fulfillment center.
Lighty refuted the claims made by workers, calling them "absolutely untrue." All facilities are climate controlled and have sprinkler systems up to code, according to Lighty. She said employees work 10 hours per day, four days per week, and peak overtime opportunities were offered beginning in November.
"Many employees see Peak as the time of year to make extra money through over-time – which in this building, they are earning $26.25 to $34.50 during overtime hours," Lighty said. Regular pay at the center is $17 to $23 per hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median pay for hand laborers and material movers is $12.44 per hour.
Should workers choose to unionize, technology investments at Amazon's facility may have to go through the union, to ensure machines are used to enhance and not remove workers' jobs. Any worker strikes at an Amazon fulfillment center could create delays in operations. Amazon workers in Spain and Germany planned strikes at fulfillment centers for a number of days in December, Gizmodo reported.
Amazon said operations have continued despite the strikes.