Oct 10, 2018
The following Op-Ed, by By Christy Hoffman and RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, appears in today's New York Daily News.=
Amazon’s plan to raise wages for nearly 400,000 of its workers in the United States and the United Kingdom is a positive step. However, as the dust settles and the details become known, it is clear that there is still much more to do for the internet commerce giant to be considered a global leader in good employment practices.
A profitable, trillion-dollar corporation headed by the richest man in the world should be more than able to pay employees well above the minimum wage, and it should also be able to include its workforces’ concerns in its decision-making
In the United States, warehouse workers face unrealistic and inhuman work quotas. These demands have left them with illnesses, injuries and sometimes even hospitalization because of cruel working conditions.
Contracted workers — such as those making “last-mile” deliveries — describe a disturbing pattern of the pressure and disregard for their wellbeing. These couriers say the job is so demanding that they cannot take bathroom breaks and often feel compelled to drive dangerously.
In the United Kingdom alone, there have been 600 ambulance calls to the online retailer’s warehouses in the past three years, and, according to a study by the GMB union, roughly 80% of workers experience pain on the job. Workers in Germany say that pressure on the job is so high, both physically and psychologically, that they are getting sick.
In fact, the very day these raises were announced, German Amazon workers in six of the country’s “fulfillment centers” were striking for the basic human right to have a union contract. This simple demand, to have a real say in working conditions and the security of a collective agreement, is not just being denied to employees in Germany.
None of Amazon’s roughly 600,000 employees around the world have a comprehensive labor agreement. For years, workers have held strikes and other workplace actions in Spain, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States, yet Amazon has aggressively squashed workers’ efforts to gain a union contract globally.
Just look at the horrible anti-union training video at Amazon-owned Whole Foods, which leaked the week before the raises were announced.
Given all this, it is not shocking that labor unions around the world have a real fear that the pay increase will only fix a mere symptom of a deeper sickness in the company’s culture.
For Amazon to be a “leader,” as it claimed to be when announcing the raise, it must allow workers to freely choose if they want a union — without intimidation. Workers should not be subject to anti-union propaganda and intense pressure when they are trying to organize for better working conditions.
Jeff Bezos must now do more than listen; he must engage in a true dialogue.
Let’s get to the root of Amazon’s workforce problems. Let’s fix the company together and make it the example we know it can be of a truly decent employer.
Hoffman is general secretary of UNI Global Union. Appelbaum is president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
Sep 27, 2018
***PORT AUTHORITY STATEMENT***
RWDSU, UNITE HERE Local 100 and Local 1102 RWDSU Herald Port Authority’s New Inclusive Wage Increases – Airline Catering Workers Will Finally Be Included in Wage Policy
(NEW YORK NY) – Today, Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Bill Granfield, President, UNITE HERE Local 100, and Alvin Ramnarain, President of RWDSU Local 1102 lauded the vote by the Port Authority to enact a new wage resolution. In addition to increasing wages, the new policy includes the nearly 5,000 airline catering workers who were excluded from the Port Authority’s previous wage policy.
The long-delayed vote, which was strongly opposed by the airline industry, would steadily increase airline catering and airport concessions workers base wages, many of whom were receiving the respective states’ minimum wages, to $19 per hour by 2023. RWDSU and UNITE HERE represent over 7,600 workers at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark airports, but implementation of the proposal could impact tens of thousands of workers at area airports in the largest sector-based minimum wage increase in the country. Workers at Port Authority airports will start seeing these pay increases on November 1.
Joint Statement from: Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Bill Granfield, President, UNITE HERE Local 100, Alvin Ramnarain, President of Local 1102 of the RWDSU:
“Today, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey increased wages for tens of thousands of airline catering and concessions workers. This increase will categorically change the lives of the hard-working people who make our airports run every day and will begin November 1, despite strong opposition from the airline industry. Service workers at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark Liberty, are key to the success of our region’s airports. The new wage floor of $19 per hour by 2023 shows tens of thousands of workers that they are valued by the people of New York and New Jersey and will allow hard working men and women to finally support themselves and their families with their airport job. Crucially, we were happy to see that the Port Authority’s resolution covers all airport service workers. This remedies an oversight in the previous policy, passed in 2014, which did not include airline catering workers. We thank the Port Authority for approving this resolution unanimously, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy for their support.”
“I have been a driver for the airline catering company Gate Gourmet at La Guardia airport for 26 years. Despite my hard work and dedication, I don’t earn enough to support my family. To make ends meet, I pick up extra shifts and overtime every week, but this means that I work long hours that keep me from being with my family. Raising the minimum wage at the airport to $19/hour will allow me and my co-workers to earn enough to support our families,” said Franz Vieux, a RWDSU Local 1102 Member who works for Gate Gourmet at LaGuardia Airport.
“This is a moment that I and many other airport workers in New York and New Jersey have spent years fighting for,” said Nelly Etienne, a UNITE HERE Local 100 member who works for United Airlines in the airline’s Newark Airport catering kitchen. “For me, a raise to $19 per hour will mean that I can provide a better life for my four children. We’ll finally be able to move into a home of our own.”
New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said, “This is what happens when working men and women stand together and speak with one voice. I’m proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters of RWDSU, UNITE HERE Local 100 and RWDSU Local 1102 who never wavered in their fight for a fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work. This is just the beginning. The Labor Movement remains committed to making sure workers continue to have an opportunity for a better life for themselves and their families.”
“When working people come together we win together,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “Increasing wages for thousands of workers at our area airports was a challenging undertaking, and together the RWDSU, UNITE HERE Local 100, and RWDSU Local 1102 closed a glaring gap in the 2014 wage order for workers in catering and concessions. Organized Labor and workers are coming together to improve their lives, and most importantly 7,600 union workers and tens of thousands of workers across two states will finally earn a fair wage for their work.”