‘It’s the war.’ Tensions remain high at Amazon’s first US warehouse to unionize
An objection hearing has begun Monday at an NLRB regional office in Phoenix, Arizona, considering the charges alleged in Amazon’s objections to the local regional office in New York. Amazon lobbied to keep the hearing closed to the public, but the federal labor agency ruled against it in a recent filing. “Commission hearings are not secret. Therefore, preventing the public from seeing its important processes is not an option,” the filing said. The ALU, meanwhile, has indicated its intention to travel to Phoenix to rally for the reconnaissance.
“Amazon is not willing to acknowledge having a union,” said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations for Labor Education Research. She added that the developments at JFK8 reveal major weaknesses in US labor law. “One of the problems with our labor laws is that if a company refuses to negotiate, the worst penalty is a piece of paper saying, ‘Go negotiate’.”
Among its complaints, Amazon alleged in a filing that the regional office of the NLRB, which oversaw the election at the facility, “unfairly and improperly facilitated the [Amazon Labor Union’s] victory.” Amazon also accused the rank-and-file union, led by Smalls, of bullying employees, among other allegations.
The new union, meanwhile, strongly contested the layoffs of JFK8 staff. After learning last week that the company had fired another worker-organizer from the plant, marking at least the third to be fired since the first election results, the newly formed union did not mince words.
In a statement to CNN, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said the employee was terminated due to violent behavior at work. The union did not respond to requests for comment.
Bronfenbrenner said Amazon’s actions since the union election come as no surprise to an employer who has opposed and avoided organizing efforts for so long.
“They’re going to fight to stay unorganized for a very long time,” she said, “until the cost of being unorganized becomes more than the cost of being unionized, and that’s going to require that their customers and their investors put a lot of pressure on them.”