April 11, 2022

Amazon Workers Unionize

Amazon workers in Staten Island, New York, voted to unionize on [April 1], marking the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the retail giant’s history.” AP News

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From the Left

The left supports Amazon workers unionizing and urges the Democratic party to support labor.

“[Amazon’s] annual rate of job turnover for their huge warehouse workforce is a mind-boggling 150 percent. Given the careful study and precision with which Amazon crafts its business practices, this turnover rate is not a bug but a deliberate, considered feature. By making the work in its warehouses so debilitating to its employees’ bodies, so demoralizing to their minds, and so exquisitely monitored by digital technology to track their employees’ every move, Amazon plainly intends to have its workers sprint through their rounds until they drop, and then hire the next crew of sprinters.”

Harold Meyerson, American Prospect

“Employers frequently spout sophisticated messaging that boils down to the specious proposition that employees somehow don’t need unions. As a worker, even if you don’t want to hear this message, you can be forced to listen to it during ‘captive audience meetings’ — compulsory all-employee meetings where the employer makes its pitch… Even after a successful union election, Amazon can lawfully delay meaningful bargaining with its union for months or even years…

“When the union requests that Amazon bargain, the company may simply refuse… In pursuing the unlawful ‘refusal to bargain,’ Amazon may claim that the election was legally tainted, achieving a backdoor appeal. This customary maneuver takes time because it has to go to federal circuit court, and employees typically have no idea what is happening while the NLRB and the federal circuit courts launch into a months-long back-and-forth… The upcoming struggle for a union contract at Amazon presents the perfect opportunity for society at large to revisit several archaic labor law principles.”

Michael C. Duff, Los Angeles Times

“Should big, existing unions organize Amazon workers? Yes. Should small, determined bands of Amazon workers launch organizing campaigns themselves? Yes. All of those people are part of the American labor movement – a movement that has only begun what will be a decades-long struggle to mold Amazon into a place where a warehouse job can sustain a middle-class lifestyle. A century ago, auto workers and steel workers and coalminers all undertook a similar union struggle, and created the greatest age of collective national prosperity that the world has ever seen. What is happening at Amazon is our generation’s turn in that class war.”

Hamilton Nolan, The Guardian

“Amazon’s senior vice-president for global corporate affairs is Jay Carney, who was Vice-President Biden’s director of communications and later President Obama’s press secretary… This past year, Amazon hired a Democratic Party–aligned PR firm, Global Strategy Group, to produce anti-union materials and monitor pro-union activists at the Staten Island warehouse. [White House Press Secretary Jen] Psaki is a former GSG employee…

“Mark Schwartz worked in Obama’s Department of Homeland Security for seven years and served on Biden’s transition team; now he’s an ‘enterprise strategist’ for Amazon Web Services. Alex Haurek worked for Democrats on the Hill for 13 years before taking his job as a senior manager for policy communications at Amazon… In an era of populism and anti-elite suspicion, this reality — of an incestuous consulting class that flits back and forth between public and private power — is a profound detriment to the Democratic Party’s legitimacy.”

Sam Adler-Bell, New York Magazine

From the Right

The right is divided about whether Amazon workers unionizing is a positive development.

The right is divided about whether Amazon workers unionizing is a positive development.

Workers don’t need unions because the economy is booming, and workers face a sellers’ market for their skills… The labor market is getting tighter. Amazon workers have more bargaining power without a union than they did a year ago. Moreover, with almost 11 million unfilled jobs, employees have their pick of other positions if they want to move. People at all income levels, including adults without a high school diploma, are getting jobs, and they don’t need unions to advance…

“Union dues can be steep. For example, monthly dues for membership in the Teamsters Local 665 in San Francisco amount to 2.5 times the hourly wage…

“In 2021, the public-and private-sector union membership rate was 10.3 percent—down from 20.1 percent in 1983, when the Labor Department started keeping records. Private-sector union membership has declined more steeply, from 16.8 percent in 1983 to 6.1 percent in 2021. That’s because workers have upward mobility without unions—and prefer to keep the dues money for themselves.”

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, City Journal

Others posit that “Tempting as it is to throw out the old playbook and stick it to today’s corporatists in every way possible, the reality that unions are not always good for workers remains true. It’s also true, however, that unions have their place in the private sector, even after years of worker-friendly regulations and changes in the economic climate…

“[In the case of Amazon] it’s abundantly clear workers need a stronger mechanism to hold the company accountable, especially on safety. An independent labor union like the one workers voted to join at JFK8 seems likely to do more good than harm…

“Wells King of the conservative American Compass emphasizes that ‘the Amazon Labor Union is independent and worker-led, not formally associated with Big Labor.’ This, King notes, ‘was probably an advantage for the purposes of organizing. Workers want to fund and run their own organizations focused solely on workplace issues; they are rightly skeptical of Big Labor and its focus on national politics.’”

Emily Jashinsky, The Federalist

“Democrats were the historic home of organized labor, even if Republicans usually held their share of working people, including blue collars. And yet, now that the Democrats have alienated so many workers on cultural issues, the GOP is stepping forward to represent them better, including on economic issues…

Unions have a place in building up the middle class, making it a bulwark against wokeism. After all, it’s only workers with some surplus who have the time and resources to pay attention to what’s happening in their kids’ schools — and to show up at school board meetings and raise hell…

“[Meanwhile] big business is happy to fund, and perhaps even lead, whatever trendy cultural cause comes along, and it asks only one not-so-small thing in return: Democrats de-emphasize, or even abandon, their traditional class-based politics. And the ploy has succeeded: Woke corporate bosses work smoothly with woke corporate employees and allies — mostly at the white-collar level — to advance, for example, Critical Race Theory. For companies, it’s a lot cheaper to hire a few flashy diversity ‘experts’ than it is to pay higher wages to the people who do the actual work… inevitably, workers will notice who truly walks with them and who only talks a good game.”

James P. Pinkerton, Breitbart

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