Last Wednesday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) led a rally on the steps of City Hall, alongside dozens of city and state officials, to condemn Amazon’s practices.
The union released a report detailing examples of the e-commerce giant’s poor working conditions and anti-union activities.
“Any company being welcomed into New York to create jobs should have a record of treating workers fairly and respecting unions,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of RWDSU, said in a statement. “Amazon clearly does not.
“As our report shows, Amazon routinely mistreats and exploits its worker at all levels,” he added, “whether they are employed in its corporate officers or in its warehouses.”
RWDSU’s document refers to a report from the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health that named Amazon as one of its “dirty dozen” companies. Between 2013 and this year, seven workers died at Amazon facilities, the report concluded.
Two were killed by forklifts in warehouses, one person was crushed by a pallet loader, and another worker was crushed by a conveyor belt.
The union also pointed to two separate incidents of mistreatment at Amazon’s warehouses. The first was during a heatwave this past May in Pennsylvania, when 15 workers were taken to hospitals.
According to the report, the company paid a private ambulance corps to station ambulances outside the warehouse during the heatwave.
They also highlighted an allegation that some workers in a United Kingdom fulfillment center peed in bottles because they feared going to the bathroom would result in being disciplined. Amazon publicly disputed the accusation.
The report also calls out Amazon for a litany of anti-union practices, such as training managers how to spot signs of union activity and hiring “union-busting managers.”
Amazon workers throughout Europe, the report reads, took part in a strike against Prime Day to bring attention to the need for improved conditions.
RWDSU noted that between 2014 and 2016, traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores lost 200,000 jobs nationwide. Amazon’s job growth, the union wrote, should be “weighed against this job loss.”
The retail union not only opposes their effect on small businesses, but also the $3 billion in government subsidies for building H2Q in Long Island City.
“If given, we will have $3 billion less tax revenue with which to fund the increased burden on our roads, public transit systems, affordable housing stock and more,” the report reads. “All the while, one of the richest companies in the world is $3 billion richer, and the competition, the brick and mortar store that create the heart and soul of NYC, are stuck with the bill and a bleaker future.”
Appelbaum said in a statement that before Amazon receives any subsidies from the city or state, the company must agree to meet a higher standard for worker treatment.
“The right of all Amazon workers to organize for better treatment should be respected, especially here in New York,” he said, “where labor unions continue to raise workplace and job standards across many industries and occupations.”
The report received support from numerous elected officials, including Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas.
“In Queens, we are working people and we are people who care about our neighbors,” she said, “so a company like Amazon, oozing greed, pigging out on public money and feeding on worker exploitation, is not welcome here.”