Union, officials warn against Amazon as employer

Amazon is promising to bring 25,000 new jobs to Long Island City, but one of the city’s largest unions warns that the move could also bring the tech giant’s controversial employment practices too.

The Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) joined a host of city and state officials Wednesday for the release of a report detailing Amazon’s alleged anti-union activities and mistreatment of workers at its locations across the country. RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said stories of constant pressure to prevent workers from unionizing should be alarming, and called for elected officials to hold the company to higher worker standards.

“City and state officials should agree that Amazon’s mistreatment and exploitation of workers is not welcome here,” he said. “We can and continue to push Amazon to improve its behavior before it opens any corporate office here.”

The report, titled “What’s Wrong With Amazon?,” did not include specific examples of working conditions at Amazon facilities located in New York, such as its fulfillment center in Staten Island, but did cite numerous reports from locations that Applebaum said was commonplace. When Whole Foods workers tried to unionize, for example, Amazon sent a video to managers discouraging collective bargaining and advised them to watch out for “warning signs” of organized labor.

A representative for Amazon said the report was a “a rehash of inaccurate and exaggerated news stories,” and said the company has created positive contributions to its workers.

“Amazon respects the rights of employees to choose to join or not join a labor union. We firmly believe the direct connection we have with employees is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our employees,” the representative said in a statement.

During the news conference announcing the HQ2 deal two weeks ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the deal would bring in union construction and “building services” jobs, and said the city’s pro-union environment would hopefully improve the company.

“I am very happy that Amazon will benefit from being in an environment that’s pro-union and will start to see why this union town works so well,” he said.