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Amazon Brings Its Shady Anti-Union Tactics to Staten Island Unionization Effort

The company is repurposing the tactics from its union-busting effort in Alabama — and adding some new ones.

Signs at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse warn against talking to labor organizers.

Just over a month after Amazon successfully shut down its Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse workers’ attempt to unionize, reporters have already found evidence of the company using its shady union-busting tactics on a new target: Amazon warehouse workers trying to form a union in Staten Island, New York.

Three weeks into “JFK8” facility workers’ independent union drive, More Perfect Union reports Amazon is ramping up its union-busting effort. The company borrowed some tactics from their last successful union bust, like putting up anti-union signs in the bathroom, this time warning against having to pay union dues.

As Truthout has previously reported, Amazon began sending messages to employees last month only days after workers began their union drive at the facility, warning them against joining a union. “If approached to sign a union card, know the facts,” the message said. It implied that signing a union card would amount to “sign[ing] away your choices” and encouraged workers to talk to their manager or human resources about the union.

More Perfect Union now reports the company is also displaying messages saying, “don’t be fooled by the vest” within the warehouse, in an effort to warn workers against talking to organizers. The message is seemingly an attempt to brand the organizers as rogue agents.

Aside from putting up signage, Amazon has also taken other active steps against workers’ organizing activities. Earlier this month, organizers of the union drive had set up a tent and arranged a cookout outside the warehouse “so that [workers] can get more information about the union, number one, and also they can eat good,” organizer Derrick Palmer told More Perfect Union.

Amazon was evidently unhappy with that arrangement. The day after the cookout, the company put up a fence barring access to the cookout area, so organizers were forced to change the location of their tent, which made it difficult for workers to find them, said Palmer.

The company also called the fire department on the cookout, complaining about a generator that the organizers were using. However, the use of the generator was perfectly legal, Palmer said, and the company was just using it as an excuse to try to disrupt the organizing efforts. “It just goes to show you that they’ll do anything to stop our movement here,” said Palmer.

“You used to almost never hear them utter the word union in Amazon. It was almost like a bad word. But now it’s in the bathrooms, on the little comment board where they give you information,” said one employee who was unidentified to More Perfect Union.

As Truthout reported, the union organizers say they have been able to draw lessons from Amazon’s successful union-busting effort in Alabama.

“We all wanted the union push to be successful in Alabama, especially with the odds being totally against them, being that Alabama is a nonunion state. But the fact that they had the opportunity to vote as a facility was historic,” Palmer told Truthout’s Candice Bernd. “We have to take the bruises and pick it up where they left off. If anything it started a movement. It’s going to be like a domino effect.”

The organizers say that they are more optimistic about their unionization chances in New York, since the state is more union-friendly than Alabama. And they say they’re taking a slower approach to the push as a whole in order to build up support more organically. The Staten Island organizers, along with The Congress of Essential Workers, are trying to create their own local called the Amazon Labor Union.

Meanwhile, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) that was behind the worker unionization drive in Bessemer, has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Amazon’s union busting efforts in the state were illegal. The RWDSU is seeking a second election for the workers.

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