Amazon and Union-Busting

Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama are currently voting on whether or not to be represented by a union.

Amazon is shamelessly trying to rig the election, in ways both small –

Amazon has even gotten the local authorities to shorten the time of stoplights outside of the plant so that union organizers can’t hand out pro-union literature to workers passing in their cars.

to enormous –

Last night, workers throughout the plant received emails offering them bonuses if they simply quit their jobs. The emails offer workers, who worked for 2 peak seasons, at least $2,000 to quit. If workers have been there at least 3 peak seasons, they are offering them $3,000.

Some Amazon workers, who dislike their job at the warehouse, may find the bonuses a tempting bridge to quit their job and seek something better. Workers are even being told that if they quit now that they could regain their jobs later after the union election.

Amazon is telling workers “quit now, right before [during, actually] the election, and we’ll give you a couple of grand and then you can come back to work for us.”

I can only hope that this is found to be illegal and that Amazon will be heavily penalized. I’m sure it’s a forlorn hope, but maybe something will be done.

Meanwhile, how anyone who claims to care about working people can spend a dime with Amazon is completely beyond me.

Whatever we may think of Amazon, if you’re only going to buy from companies that don’t exploit workers in some fashion, well, I’m not sure you’ll be able to buy anything at all. Or eat out.

And is that a reason not to at least try to send a message to Amazon?

Can I send the message to the proto-union that I don’t want them to form?

Unions are generally worthless and the workers would be better served by taking their union dues and finding another job that doesn’t suck. There are plenty of non-amazon games in town.

Which is why Amazon is offering thousands of dollars for their workers to resign rather than let them vote for a union.

Or its cheaper to get the people who are unhappy to quit and go do something else, then everyone wins.

Don’t get me wrong I’m firmly convinced unions are great at screwing over their employers but in my experience they are equally good at screwing over their members. The only people who win in the union game are the people running the union.

You may be convinced of this. But the facts suggest otherwise. Unionized employees working in the same types of jobs as non-unionized employees have higher pay and more benefits, even when you subtract the cost of union dues.

You must’ve worked for some crappy unions then. One of the main reasons why my job is so great is because I’m in a union. I wouldn’t have nearly as many benefits and not even close to the job security I’d have if I wasn’t a member.

I’m not saying it’s perfect. One downside is that if someone is legitimately terrible, it’s hard to get rid of them. There are a number of coworkers that we’d do better without. But that’s more than outweighed by the positive aspects of membership.

Sorry, “stockholders” isn’t spelled e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e.

Well, my experience (longshoremen) is a bit different. They get paid well, and protected from being abused by management (me).

^ This. Especially the “eat out” thing, especially at a location where you are served - waiters are legally paid an obscenely low wage under the theory that they’re earning a lucrative living in tips. Meanwhile, the customer can withhold tips for any damn reason, basically making the waiter work for free or nearly so. That’s not a job, that’s servitude.

Meanwhile, it’s getting harder and harder to NOT buy from Amazon.

Yes, unions can suck just as much as employers can.

But unions have also brought in a number of innovations that have become so mainstream even non-union businesses routinely offer them.

There are good employers that don’t need a union to tell them how to treat workers well. There are crappy unions even worse than crappy company management. Very much YMMV.

This is straight up nonsense, though I am sure you’ll trot out some anecdote about a bad union experience that you’ve used to extrapolate to all unions.

No just me. Almost every person I know in a union hates their union: cops, teachers, drywallers, truck drivers, plumbers, metal workers and federal employees. The only union I worked in was one I was forced into working at a grocery store in high school. That didn’t even last the summer since I made more money in a non-union sheet metal shop sweeping the floor.

When I bid work out like custom fabrication the union shops cost 2-3x the non-union shops and their workers get paid less at least based on my conversations with the majority of guys in the non union shop that got the work. Since they quit the union job to come over. Most of the guys I work with in skilled trades welders, plumbers, electricians all bailed on the union to go work on their own, they either make more money now or at least have streadier work since they can work for anyone.

The few people that seem happy in the union life are those who make good money, work hard enough to feel good about themselves, but have no drive for a better life. From what I’ve seen they are OK at their job but the great ones always end up hating the union and bailing (if they can).

That’s a good point. Unions had a very useful roll ~100 years ago and were instrumental in getting rid of a lot of bad workplace policies that we take for granted today.

I haven’t bought anything from Amazon in, I think, more than ten years. I haven’t suffered any hardship, or even mild inconvenience, because of that.

Me neither.

Sorry, but this is a lie. Amazon has ALWAYS offered “The Offer” - which they took from Zappos but sort of reversed and made worse (Zappos paid new workers to quit during their probationary period, if they weren’t a good fit), or at least since 2009 (after acquiring Zappos).

I’m not saying Amazon isn’t anti-union, or hasn’t done reprehensible and possibly illegal anti-labor things, but whoever wrote this was wrong to take a policy that predates Amazon and has nothing to due with unionization and try to shoehorn it in somehow.

This is a policy offered in every warehouse every year this time of year since 2009, $1000 per peak worked. A pretty commonly reported thing.

I love Amazon, I guess I hate workers. I buy a lot of stuff through them. They employ a lot of people. I’m not pro-Union though, so that must explain it.

They save wasted trips to stores, do almost everything right by their customers. They’ve revolutionized delivery.

It is in their interest to keep the union out, I get that. But I will keep buying from Amazon.

ETA: Is it union busting if the union isn’t in yet?

I am pro-union, pro-employee, and pro-amazon. I have several monthly subscriptions and use it for groceries as well. When COVID shut down stores and I was working 50-60 hours still I couldn’t even get food to eat without such services. I don’t think boycotting Amazon helps employees. 1. They make most of their profits from AWS, advertising, and other services. 2. If they don’t have work for warehouse employees they just use a couple of tactics that make the experience worse. a. labor share for “business needs” - employees are sent to a different department where they are untrained and uncomfortable, because there’s always some department that needs bodies b. they do VTO - voluntary unpaid time off, and a lot of employees use it or feel pressured, so basically a fulltime job with no hours and I don’t see how that helps employees.

So, if it’s not obvious I work at Amazon, and here’s how I found myself there: $7.25 fed minimum wage, $8.10 in my state I think. This was 4 years ago. Amazon started at $15/hr plus RSUs (let’s just call it “stocks” though it’s more complicated), and a monthly bonus just for showing up. plus medical/dental/vision/ 401k match, 2 years salary in life insurance, etc. They got rid of the stocks and bonuses because politicians complained so I got a pay cut for Christmas 2018, but I now make $21/hr and can work 3 nights and be considered fulltime with benefits and do other responsibilities and my own small business interests around that while having some stability. I have a LOT of problems with Amazon and I’m not shy voicing my concerns, but I think the complaints shouldn’t be straight out lies or distortions.

My business died 4 years ago, I needed a job and Amazon offers those to pretty much anyone who wants to work and offers much more than minimum. You show up, here’s the job then you stick with it or not. I’m thinking about quitting right now.

Huh. My experience is the opposite. Go figure, I guess.

Yes. Trying to prevent union formation is still “union-busting.”