The president wants Amazon workers to join a union

Read the whole story at The Hill  What a difference a few weeks makes in the age of Twitter. On Jan. 8, Twitter permanently suspended the official account of former President Trump for inciting violence. On Feb. 4, President Biden tweeted the following: “Every American deserves the dignity and respect that comes with union organizing and collective bargaining. The policy of our government is to encourage union organizing, and employers should ensure their workers have a free and fair choice to join a union.” Biden has pledged to be the “most pro-union president” in history, and his tweet is perhaps the clearest pro-union statement we’ve ever had from a sitting president. Biden’s comments are not without precedent. Most students of New Deal labor remember FDR’s quote, “the president wants you to join a union.” In reality, the quote was probably apocryphal, but it was believable — and the newly organized labor federation, the CIO, used it to help organize workers in the mass-production sector, leading to historic victories in auto, steel and rubber industries. President Obama also used the bully pulpit of the office to celebrate the role of unions in creating the American middle class, saying: “We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests, because we know that you cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement”; a few weeks later, Obama’s pro-labor comments were used, with significant impact, in a historic union organizing victory at Smithfield meatpacking plant in North Carolina. But Biden’s comments are more significant. Unlike those of FDR, his comments are not of dubious providence and are unambiguous: the president wants you to join a union. Unlike Obama, Biden has vowed to be the “most pro-union” president we’ve ever seen. Obama said positive things about unions, but he did relatively little to support the critical pro-union legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act, and his recently published memoir of his time in office, A Promised Land, makes zero mention of union issues. Biden, in contrast, has vowed to prioritize the PRO Act, passed by the House of Representatives last February, which would strengthen workers’ right to choose a union, make more transparent aggressive corporate anti-union campaigns, and limit employer efforts to misclassify workers. The new president has already removed anti-union officials appointed by his predecessor to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Federal Service Impasses Panel, among others.

Delayed Housing Works victory shows need for PRO Act

Stuart Appelbaum Amsterdam News  In December, by an overwhelming margin, 605 employees at Housing Works housing units, thrift stores, health care, and other locations throughout New York City finally won their campaign to join the RWDSU. It was one of the biggest union organizing wins anywhere in 2020, and it meant that Housing Works workers will finally be able to address the issues they faced including poor pay and benefits, unmanageable caseloads, lack of training, discrimination and harassment and health and safety problems. Finally, through a union contract and a voice on the job, these workers will be able to improve their jobs, their lives, and the care received by Housing Works clients. The workers’ win shows their tenacity and dedication. They never wavered in this unnecessarily long process, which was stalled by their employer at every turn. They stayed strong as their employer continued to do everything possible to delay the union election, hoping to squash the workers’ momentum and eventually smother the organizing drive. The fact that these workers stood together and won is inspiring and joyous, and stands as a testament to what working people can accomplish when they are united. The fact that it took two years––amid countless delays and obstacles put up by their employer––can only be described as a shame. It shouldn’t take workers who overwhelmingly want to exercise their right to join a union two years to accomplish their goal. Employers shouldn’t be allowed to continually game the system to try to squeeze the life out of organizing drives by their workers. Legislation passed in the House last year, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, known as the PRO Act, would help ensure that workers aren’t denied their rights and that employers aren’t allowed to abuse the system to run out the clock on organizing drives. The PRO Act would amend labor laws to give workers more power during disputes at work, add penalties for companies that retaliate against workers who organize and grant some hundreds of thousands of workers collective-bargaining rights they don’t currently have. It would also weaken anti-worker “right-to-work” laws in 27 states that hurt unions. With a Republican Senate and Trump in the White House, the PRO Act was considered dead on arrival. With the arrival of President Biden and a Democratic Congress in 2021, passage of the PRO Act is possible. After decades of the playing field leaning further and further to employers’ favor, now is an opportunity to restore some balance in the fight for workers’ rights and give more workers a chance at winning a union voice. The huge victory at Housing Works showed the power workers have when they stand united, but it also showed the need to level the playing field between workers and their employers when it comes to union and worker rights. When workers want to join a union, it shouldn’t take years. Workers should be free to exercise their rights without employer interference, intimidation, and delay. The PRO Act needs to be a top legislative priority in 2021, so that more workers can win union representation and better lives for themselves and their families.

In Alabama, Workers At Amazon Warehouse Are Poised For Union Vote

NPR A vote beginning this week among Amazon workers in an Alabama suburb could decide if a warehouse there becomes the company's first unionized facility in the U.S. Ballots will go out on Monday to more than 5,800 workers at the warehouse in Bessemer, near Birmingham, asking if they want to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The election runs through March 29 and marks the first Amazon warehouse union vote since a group of technicians in Delaware voted against unionizing in 2014. The mail-in vote will also come just days after the National Labor Relations Board shot down an effort by Amazon to delay the union election. The company had petitioned for a postponement reasoning that the vote — conducted by mail due to minimize spread of the coronavirus — should be done in person. Amazon has battled back efforts to unionize their American facilities, even though many of its European warehouses operate under union agreements. Amazon representatives have also said that workers behind the union drive do not represent a majority of its employees. "Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire, and we encourage anyone to compare our overall pay, benefits, and workplace environment to any other company with similar jobs," Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski said when Bessemer workers notified the NLRB of their intention to unionize in November. RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum told NPR last month that more than half the workers in Bessemer had signed cards in support of union representation. Appelbaum said that workers at the facility had reached out to the union over the summer, months after the facility had opened in March in the early days of the pandemic. Workers at the Bessemer warehouse had described grueling productivity quotas and had wanted more input in shaping the workplace including how people get disciplined or fired, Appelbaum told NPR in January. Support for the union drive has spread beyond the warehouse, gaining recognition from other unions and national attention.

New Members at NYC Bookstores Ratify Strong First Contract

McNally Jackson workers celebrate joining the RWDSU in 2019. In January, RWDSU members at six McNally Jackson Bookstores in New York City ratified their first union contract after joining the RWDSU in late 2019. The RWDSU members at the stores secured strong wage increases, benefit improvements, and won the dignity, respect, and a voice on the job that comes with a union contract.   “By ratifying their first contract that addresses the many issues that motivated them to organize, McNally Jackson workers showed that the best way for working people to protect themselves and their families is to join together in a union and secure a strong contract,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “We are so proud of this contract! I think our landslide ratification vote really speaks to how excited the unit is about it and how happy we are with the improvements we achieved. It feels a bit surreal that we made it happen, even while mostly over Zoom. I think we can all agree 2020 was a challenging year, but working on this contract and the solidarity with my coworkers brought me some sanity and comfort. Together we got a really stellar contract,” said McNally Jackson employee Kathryn Harper. The vote to ratify the contract was conducted virtually on January 29. The workers in the bargaining unit handle sales, events, stocking and information services in the stores. Contract improvements include: -Creation of three tiers for employees that recognizes skill levels and responsibilities. This provision ensures workers will be paid according to the work they do, and also creates greater creative autonomy for members to curate their particular sections of the store, which was greatly sought after by members. -Significant wage increases for most members ranging from between 7 and 17 percent depending upon tier. -Members, who previously had no retirement plan, can now participate in the union retirement program. -Paid holidays will increase from 5 to 9 for all workers. -Members with four years or more service will receive an extra week of paid vacation time.

NLRB AMAZON STAY & APPEAL - YET ANOTHER DELAY REQUEST BY AMAZON DENIED - STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 5, 2021 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 (BESSEMER, AL) – On January 21, 2021, Amazon made a motion to request a stay of the union election for workers at the fulfilment center in Bessemer, Alabama and appealed the decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 10. Today, the NLRB in Washington, DC denied both of their motions, allowing the union election to proceed as decided in the Decision and Direction of Election by their Region 10 office on January 15, 2021. Despite Amazon’s last-ditch effort to delay the election, union election ballots will now go out in the mail to workers on Monday, February 8, 2021. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which is conducting the unionization drive for the workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, issued the following statement: “Once again Amazon workers have won another fight in their effort to win a union voice. Amazon’s blatant disregard for the health and safety of its own workforce was demonstrated yet again by its insistence for an in-person election in the middle of the pandemic. Today’s decision proves that it’s long past time that Amazon start respecting its own employees; and allow them to cast their votes without intimidation and interference.” # # #  The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 members throughout the United States. The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). For more information, please visit our website at www.rwdsu.org, Facebook:/RWDSU.UFCW Twitter:@RWDSU.

Exclusive-White House pulled into unionization effort at Amazon facility

Story originally posted by Reuters  Amazon, America’s second-biggest private employer behind Walmart Inc, does not have any union labor in the United States, and workers at its fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, would be the first to join if they vote in favour. The last attempt by Amazon workers to unionize was in 2014. A White House spokeswoman, who declined to comment directly on the Alabama effort, said President Biden supports union organizing and collective bargaining and has urged employers not to run anti-union campaigns or interfere with organizing and bargaining. He has also called for holding employers accountable and increasing penalties when they do, she added. RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum told Reuters the conversation with a top advisor to President Joe Biden took place after the inauguration and focused on their efforts to organize the facility in Alabama. “We wanted to inform the White House that this campaign was taking place and that they would be hearing about it... we did not make any specific request,” Appelbaum said, adding that the Biden advisor was interested in learning more about the situation in Alabama. Appelbaum said labor leaders “connected to the RWDSU” spoke to the White House, but he declined to name who they spoke with. He also said another senior advisor to Biden has been tracking the Alabama effort. “The larger labor movement has indicated to the White House that this is an important campaign, that this is a priority,” Appelbaum said. On Feb. 8, the National Labor Relations Board will mail ballots to 5,805 workers at the facility near Birmingham, who will then have seven weeks to decide whether they want the RWDSU to represent them. The effort to secure White House support by labor leaders underscores the high stakes involved, as Amazon fights its biggest labor battle yet in the United States. A victory for the union could encourage workers attempting to organize at other Amazon facilities. Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said the company does not “believe the RWDSU represents the majority of our employees’ views.” The company’s employees choose to work at Amazon because “we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire, and we encourage anyone to compare our total compensation package, health benefits, and workplace environment to any other company with similar jobs,” she added. Amazon has long avoided unionization, and it has trained managers to spot organizing activity. A website advocating Amazon workers shun unions, doitwithoutdues.com, warned the Bessemer employees, “why pay almost $500 in dues? We’ve got you covered* with high wages, health care, vision, and dental benefits.” The COVID pandemic spurred labor organizing in different parts of the company and the world’s largest online retailer has faced a barrage of criticism over its handling of a coronavirus outbreak at its warehouses and other facilities. Amazon, reporting more than 19,000 COVID-19 cases as of September, has said it increased cleaning, implemented virus tests and temperature checks, and added other measures to protect associates.

AMAZON CEO JEFF BEZOS STEPS DOWN STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM

(NEW YORK, NY) –  Today, it was announced that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will be stepping down from his role at the company and will become executive chairman. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which is conducting a unionization drive for the workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, issued the following statement: “Jeff Bezos' business model for Amazon was feasting on public subsidies, paying little or no taxes and dehumanizing and mistreating his employees. The appropriate legacy for him should be workers coming together in Bessemer, Alabama and organizing a union and creating change in Amazon's model of employee relations. Bezos's model for treating workers must not become the model for the future of work.”

SAFE STAFFING FOR QUALITY CARE ACT IS CRITICAL FOR OUR MEMBERS STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM

(NEW YORK, NY) – Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report, which highlighted that two-thirds of nursing home coronavirus fatalities in New York state were in facilities with the lowest or next-to-lowest staffing ratings. The “Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act” introduced earlier this month, will establish minimum standards for nurse-to-patient ratios under penalty of revocation of the facility’s operating license. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents workers at nursing home facilities in New York issued the following statement in support of the bill: “Nursing home workers watch over our loved ones every day; and they must have the time they need to provide the proper care to our mothers, fathers, grandparents and elderly. Without safe staffing levels workers are pulled between patients – which try as they might, doesn’t allow them to give the full care and attention to residents. “The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act will give our members the time they need to ensure each and every resident has the care they need and deserve. This bill will improve patient and worker safety by establishing staff-to-patient ratios for nurses in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities based on the type of care provided and number of patients. “Data continues to prove that staffing ratios not only save lives but provide significant cost offsets for providers. This legislation will implement mandated ratios so that patients get the care they deserve. Our members who care for our loved ones need the public’s support for safe staffing. We fully support this bill, and we hope it is swiftly enacted into law to help our members.”

Amazon’s anti-union blitz stalks Alabama warehouse workers everywhere, even the bathroom

SEATTLE — Some workers in Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse complain that the company’s aggressive performance expectations leave them little time to take bathroom breaks. When they do get there, they face messaging from Amazon pressing its case against unionization, imploring them to vote against it when mail-in balloting begins Feb. 8. “Where will your dues go?” reads a flier posted on the door inside a bathroom stall. “They got right in your face when you’re using the stall,” said Darryl Richardson, a worker at the warehouse who supports the union. Another pro-union worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution said of Amazon’s toilet reading: “I feel like I’m getting harassed.” The stakes couldn’t be higher for Amazon, which is fighting the biggest labor battle in its history on U.S. soil. Next Monday, the National Labor Relations Board will mail ballots to 5,805 workers at the facility near Birmingham, who will then have seven weeks to decide whether they want the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to represent them. If they vote yes, they would be the first Amazon warehouse in the United States to unionize. Read the rest here at Washington Post 

Amazon Warehouse Workers In Alabama Push To Unionize

NPR’s Here & Now (listen to it here) Amazon employees in Alabama will soon vote on whether to form the first union of U.S. warehouse workers at the company. And according to organizers, more than half of the facility's employees have already indicated they want a union shop. The National Labor Relations Board set up the election after hearing from those workers over the summer. Amazon has historically resisted unionization — at least two past union drives at the company have failed. But organizers think this time may be different. Here & Now's Tonya Mosley speaks with Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). This segment aired on January 28, 2021.