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Amazon has become notorious for anti-union practices and for worker exploitation. The company recently announced two new U.S. headquarters.
A collective of Amazon employees announced Wednesday a campaign to unionize at the company’s recently-opened Staten Island center, challenging the company's aggressive anti-union stance shortly after the locations for new headquarters were announced to be in New York City and near Washington D.C.
Stuart Appelbaum, executive vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) spoke outside of City Hall in New York City ahead of city council talks over the new Amazon headquarters (HQ2). Protesters dropped a banner in the council meeting that read, “No to Amazon #HQ2Scam.”
“Amazon has been well-documented as one of the most anti-worker, anti-union companies in the United States and around the world, controlled by the planet’s wealthiest person,” said Appelbaum.
The company’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, is currently the richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of US$90 billion. The company’s recently announced that the two new headquarters would cost taxpayers over US$4 billion while the company reaps in over US$1 billion in tax breaks.
“There’s never been greater leverage,” Appelbaum said, adding that if taxpayers are footing the bill, “then taxpayers have the right to demand that Amazon stop being a union-busting company.”
Recently-elected congresswomen for New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist, said that she stood by her constituents who are outraged by the decision to host Amazon headquarters in the city.
"Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need more investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here," she explained.
Amazon hiring former NYC Councilmembers to be their lobbyists doesn’t change the fact that they are trying to trample democracy, skip the need for public review, and somehow force construction of a digital company town in LIC on public dime w/o public consent. https://t.co/3VpoWbUXN0
The company has come under fire for harsh working conditions, low wages, and for a training video encouraging workers to thwart attempts to unionize. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who's been a driving force for workers' rights in the U.S., and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote to the CEO informing him that the video infringed on federal labor law.
Sanders also spearheaded legislation with California Representative Ro Khanna called the Stop Bezos Act, (Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies) which would tax corporations the equivalent of the amount their low-wage workers receive in welfare programs, such as food stamps. About a month after, Amazon announced that the minimum wage for their workers would increase.
However, labor unrest has continued. On Black Friday, one of the busiest retail days of the year, Amazon workers in Spain and Germany went on strike. The company has successfully squandered attempts to unionize in the U.S. and Europe.