Working conditions | Amazon fires superiors after syndicating warehouse

(New York) After Amazon workers working in a massive Staten Island warehouse won a shocking union victory last month, union leaders have become celebrities, sent shockwaves through the wider labor movement and spurred on politicians from across the country. across the country to join Amazon workers. Now, it appears to have created a slump in Amazon’s executive ranks as well.

Posted at 9 am.

Karen Weise and Noam Scheiber
The New York Times newspaper

On Thursday, Amazon notified more than half a dozen senior executives involved with the Staten Island warehouse that they were being fired, according to four current and former employees with knowledge of the situation and speaking on condition of anonymity.

The layoffs, which took place outside the company’s usual employee appraisal cycle, were seen by superiors and others working at the warehouse as a response to the Amazon Workers Union’s victory, three of those people said. Warehouse workers voted overwhelmingly to form the company’s first union in the United States, in one of the biggest victories for organized labor in at least a generation.

Word of the remodel spread through the warehouse on Thursday. Many superiors were charged with implementing the company’s response to the organizing effort. Several were company veterans with more than six years of experience, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Workers who supported the union complained that the company’s health and safety protocols were too lax, particularly regarding COVID-19 and repetitive strain injuries, and that the company was pushing them too hard. Many also said the warehouse wage, which starts at more than $18 an hour for full-time workers, was too low for living in New York.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company made the leadership changes after spending several weeks evaluating certain aspects of the “business and management” of JFK8, which is the company name for the company. “Part of our culture at Amazon is continuous improvement, and we believe it’s important to take the time to review whether or not we’re doing the best we can for our team,” said a spokeswoman, Kelly Nantell.

Superiors were told they were being fired as part of an “organizational change”, two people said. One such person stated that some of the superiors were high performers who had received positive reviews recently.

The Staten Island location is Amazon’s only New York distribution center. For a year, current and former workers at the site organized to form an independent union.

The company is contesting the election, saying the union’s unconventional tactics were coercive and that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was biased toward the union. And the union is working to keep the pressure on Amazon to negotiate a contract.

Amazon union president Christian Smalls testified on Thursday before a US Senate committee considering whether companies that violate labor laws should be denied federal contracts. Smalls then attended a White House meeting with other union organizers, during which he directly asked the country’s president, Joe Biden, to pressure Amazon to recognize his union.

A White House spokesman said it was up to the NLRB to certify the results of the recent election, but said Joe Biden has long supported collective bargaining and the right of workers to unionize.

Amazon said it invested $300 million in security projects in 2021 alone and was offering above-minimum wages with solid benefits like health care for full-time workers once they join the company.

Company officials and consultants held more than 20 mandatory meetings a day with employees in the run-up to the election, in which they sought to persuade workers not to support the union. Authorities stressed how much money the union would collect from them and underscored the uncertainty of collective bargaining, which they said could worsen the situation for workers.

Labor experts say such statements can be misleading, as it is very rare for workers to see their wages reduced as a result of the union negotiation process.

This article was originally published on The New York Times newspaper.

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