Amazon Wage Increases Only the First Step

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.

RWDSU, UNITE HERE Local 100 and Local 1102 RWDSU Herald Port Authority’s New Inclusive Wage Increases

***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.”

Strong First Contract for New Jersey Parking Authority

The first union contract for parking enforcement officers in Morristown, New Jersey, bring employees excellent benefits including a dental plan, three new paid holidays including MLK Day, Good Friday, and the Day after Thanksgiving, and three additional personal days. All members will also receive wage increases, and a starting rate of $15 per hour – with guaranteed pay above the minimum wage should it rise – has been established. The contract also ensures that workers will be provided with foul weather gear when necessary and allows workers to be reimbursed for unused sick days or carry them over if desired.

NJ Nursing Home Workers Ratify Strong First Contract

When workers at Genesis Woodlands Center, a nursing home in Plainfield, New Jersey, joined RWDSU Local 108 last year, they wanted change, and most of all, respect. “We knew we deserved better and decided that we needed change, representation, a voice on the job and job security,” said Marie Joseph, a Genesis Woodlands certified nursing assistant. Now, with their first contract, they’ve gotten that voice on the job and more. The contract – which was unanimously ratified – brings workers a 60 percent reduction on their health plan as well as annual wage increases. For the first time, Genesis workers will receive shift and weekend differentials, and four additional paid holidays. The Genesis Woodlands facility is owned by Genesis Healthcare Inc. which operates over 500 skilled nursing facilities nationwide. Genesis Healthcare Inc. had an estimated revenue of $5.73 billion in 2016. The RWDSU/UFCW currently represents hundreds of Genesis Healthcare nursing home employees throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Time's Up for Low Wage Workplace Harassment

The Time’s Up Legal Defense fund, an arm of the celebrity-backed Time’s Up initiative unveiled in January to help fight workplace sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond, is taking a major step toward its mission. The organization announced on Tuesday that the Time’s Up Legal Defense fund has awarded $750,000 in total grants to 18 different nonprofit organizations that all work to support workers who experience sexual harassment and sexual violence in the workplace. The organizations that received Time’s Up grants include the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance and the Florida-based Voces Unidas, which serves low-wage immigrant women in South Florida. read more at

New Contract for New England Envipco Workers

(l to r) Envipco employee Bill Gallant, NEJB President Tina Buonauguri, Envipco Steward Mike Brugliera and Envipco employee Dave Crenshaw. Local 444 members at Envipco – service technicians who maintain automated bottle and can recycling machines on location at grocery stores, liquor stores, and department stores  - ratified a new three-year contract. In addition to wage increases, the employees’ health care will be maintained with no cost increases over the life of the contract.

NYC Elected Officials and H&M Union Members Visit Retailer's HQ to Demand Fair Negotiations

Today, with an expired contract, 1,500 unionized H&M workers at locations across Manhattan are still without a contract. After weeks of negotiations, it is clear that the company has not been bargaining with decision -makers at the table. A number of elected officials joined H&M retail professionals, who are members of Local 1102 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), on a delegation visit to the H&M U.S. Headquarters to demand they come to the table. The union is seeking to negotiate a fair contract that includes essential scheduling provisions that would eliminate “clopenings”, give part-time workers a minimum of 14-18 hours a week and the right to time off after five consecutive days worked, among many other fair union demands. Members of the New York City Council led the delegation into the building and demanded a meeting with H&M decision makers who have yet to come to the table to negotiate fairly after repeated requests by the Council. The delegation also delivered a letter signed by 28 Members urging the company to “to conclude contract negotiations that achieve fair terms of employment for your workers as soon as possible.” (Full letter attached). VIDEO INSIDE H&M: (Start at 3:00) PHOTOS/VIDEOS: “The letter from the New York City Council and their support at our delegation visit today shows how serious New York City takes fair collective bargaining. We will not back down until H&M sends decision-makers to the table. Our members used to be proud to work for H&M, but their utter disregard for their workers, which we’ve seen deteriorate over months of negotiations tells a different story. Forcing low-wage workers into a schedule that can only provide poverty level wages with no ability to work a needed second job is disgusting. We cannot stand for it, we will not stand for it, and we will fight until we secure a fair new contract for the over 1,500 workers we represent at H&M,” said Alvin Ramnarain, President of Local 1102 of the RWDSU. “I travel over an hour to get to work everyday. When I heard that H&M wanted to reinstate a banned practice of ‘clopenings’, which would require that I get less than 5 hours of sleep a night I was outraged. Working at H&M has been a good job over the past 12 years, but if they instate these horrendous scheduling practices I won’t be able to provide for my family and I will need to seek other employment,” said Khadejiah Legrier an H&M Sales Associate. “Workers deserve access to a dependable schedule so they can manage child care, doctors’ appointments, the ability to budget effectively, and most importantly, their own health and wellbeing, and that is not the case for RWDSU Local 1102 H&M workers in New York City,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “I stand with my City Council colleagues in urging H&M to come to fair terms of employment for its workers and conclude contract negotiations as soon as possible.” “I cannot understand H&M and its insistence on ‘clopenings’,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz. “Since when is it a sound business practice to have sleep deprived employees?” “New York City is known globally for its thriving retail industry, there is no reason for retail workers to be treated poorly, with low wages and no real job security,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “H&M and CEO Karl-Johann Persson needs to do what is right here and treat their workers with the respect and consideration they deserve. Negotiations and bargaining must be done in good faith as members of RWDSU Local 1102 have repeatedly tried to cooperate and work with the company.” “H&M workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “Their labor is the source of H&M’s nearly $170 million in profits in the last quarter. These workers have faithfully done their jobs, agreed to numerous concessions and the company has prospered. It’s time for H&M to bargain in good faith and conclude these contract negotiations with better and fair working conditions for employees.” “Full-time employees should never have to seek a second or third job to feed their families,” said Council Member Diana Ayala. “Workers deserve quality jobs that provide living wages, benefits, and schedule predictability. I am proud to contribute to the City Council's history of championing workers' right by standing with my colleagues in urging the CEO of H&M to conclude contract negotiations with their employees.” “All New Yorkers should have access to fair pay and benefits, guaranteed minimum hours, and reasonable schedules. We have an important duty as elected officials to uphold these values and I am proud to stand with the H&M employees as they advocate for fair treatment,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “When people have to make arrangements for child care, or travel an hour by subway, or take care of relatives who are older or ill, the security provided by a fair contract is the certainty they need to do their jobs well. It’s been months of negotiations. It’s time for H&M management to live up to their own principles and do the right thing. Their workers deserve the security of a predictable work schedule, guaranteed working hours, and access to health benefits. These are not radical demands. They are the bare minimum due to every employee. And we, their elected representatives, will not stop fighting until they get fair terms of employment,” said City Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “Living wages, fair scheduling and economic security are fundamental rights that should be afforded to every worker, and it is unconscionable that H&M has not yet granted its workers in New York City basic labor protections to provide for their families," said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. "I stand with the thousands of RWDSU Local 1102 H&M workers in their fight for a fair and equitable contract, and urge H&M to take immediate action to give them the respect and dignity they deserve. H&M should do the right thing. To me, that means finalizing contract negotiations in good faith and on terms that are fair to workers. As the son of a Teamster, I know how important it is to live in a household with financial security and stability. In the City Council, we have a long history of supporting workers’ rights. I urge H&M to do what is right and be fair to their employees,” said Speaker Corey Johnson. CouncilTop Five Demands of the Company by the Union Include: Guaranteed Part- Time Hours: The union has proposed a minimum guarantee of between 14 to18 hours per week for all part-time employees who want to work that much. But H&M has said they wish to guarantee ONLY 8 working hours per week. 8 hours barely covers worker’s subway trips, and, above all, because H&M is demanding that workers have open availability Friday through Sunday, they are essentially shutting workers out of a needed second job. Eliminating “Clopenings”: “Clopenings” must stop. The union has proposed a minimum of 10.5 hours rest time between workers closing and opening shifts. It may take a worker hours to get home at night, and then they have to turn around and return early the next morning to open the store. This does not provide for any work‐life balance, which H&M claims as one of its values. No More Than 5 Consecutive Days Worked: The Committee has proposed to eliminate employees being scheduled for more than five consecutive days worked. Currently, some employees are sometimes scheduled 6 to 8 days in a row without a scheduled day off. Workers should not be forced to work more than five consecutive days, unless they choose to pick up more shifts. H&M doesn’t see the issue that many workers have reported as a problem to the union. Dental Insurance & Eyeglasses: Many workers lack dental and vision insurance. The union has proposed no‐cost dental and vision insurance for all H&M employees through a Local 1102 RWDSU sponsored plan. The cost to the company is a measly $1 per person per month. H&M refuses to make this extremely minimal investment to provide workers a benefit, which will get them a free pair of glasses and up to $1,500 in dental work per year. 50 Cents/Hour in Longevity Pay for Senior Employees: The Committee has proposed an additional, hourly increase of $.50 cents for senior employees who have worked at H&M for 3 years or more. The sad thing is that H&M agrees with us that veteran employees should get this money – however, they do not want to guarantee it in the contract and has demanded the ability to use their “management discretion” to give it to some people that they like, but not others. The above proposals will cost H&M very little money and the majority of them don’t cost the company a dime. But the company just won’t make even a basic adjustment to the way they do the schedule to improve workers lives, and yet they claim to “believe in people.”

H&M Workers Push for New Contract

H&M employees want a new contract and they want it now. Two weeks ago, 1,500 H&M workers across multiple Manhattan locations rallied for a new deal after they felt management had no plan to bargain with them for a new deal. They recent contract’s already expired. At the Herald Square flagship location, workers (who are members of Local 1102 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union) rallied in favor of multiple demands including giving part-time employees a minimum of 14-18 hours a week and the right to time off after five consecutive days worked and scheduling provisions that would eliminate “clopenings” (where an employee works the late shift until closing and then come back the next day to open the store for an early shift). H&M employees also want a dental a vision plan. They have proposed no-cost dental and vision insurance for all workers through a plan sponsored by Local 1102 RWDSU. According to the union, it would cost H&M $5 per person per month. The union said H&M refused to agree to this provision. Read more about it at Amsterdam News

Labor and Community Activists Rally, Deliver Message to Bezos After Report on Amazon's Enabling of White Nationalist Merchants

Activists Demand Amazon Eliminate the Sale of Hateful Merchandise and Respond to Inhumane Labor Procedures Used to Distribute Products of Hate Groups (NEW YORK, NY) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and several community groups protested outside of Amazon’s Web Services Summit at New York City’s Javits Center just days after the Action Center on Race and the Economy and the Partnership for Working Families released a report entitled “Delivering Hate: How Amazon’s Platforms Are Used to Spread White Supremacy, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia, and How Amazon Can Stop It”. Activists paved the way for Amazon Summit attendees entering the conference with the company’s own boxes demarcating the hateful products that Amazon sells. Leaders spoke on the outrageous practice of White Supremacists using Amazon’s platform to sell hateful goods targeted at both adults and children and Amazon’s complete and total disregard for their use of their platform to do so. The group then delivered a letter to Jeff Bezos calling on him to act now (text of letter below). “When a company knowingly allows hate groups to use their platform to sell offensive goods we cannot, and we will not stand for it. Jeff Bezos should be ashamed of himself, he should be horrified that he has given a vehicle to white supremacists to spread hate and he needs to commit to stopping it now,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “In a time where we are seeing the growth of racist movements in our country, it is dangerous for the largest online retailer and distributor of e-books, Amazon to provide these groups with a platform to spread their ideas and resources to support their operations. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his board of directors must take a public stand against hate and violence and stop enabling others to profit from it. Normalizing white supremacist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic extremists puts our communities and workers at risk. It’s time for Amazon to show which side are they on?” said Maritza Silva-Farrell Executive Director of Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) “Amazon should be utterly ashamed of itself for aiding these white supremacist merchants,” said Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York (MRNY). “As New Yorkers and as Americans, we are disgusted by the company’s backing of hate, and today we demand action. The company must immediately stop the selling of these items on its platform and take a clear stand against hate movements across all of its platforms.” “Jeff Bezos cannot have it both ways. He cannot claim he opposes Trump, while providing a safe haven in the online market to white supremacists and Trump supporters,” said Zack Lerner, Senior Campaign Director of New York Communities for Change (NYCC). “At a time where black and brown communities are under attack, the selling of items that promote violence are despicable. Amazon must immediately   stop letting its platform be used to sell items featuring hate symbols.” “No business in this country should be profiting off of hate and discrimination”, said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Amazon is enabling and empowering bigotry and discrimination and must immediately reject the sale of these products on its platform.” “In a moment of rising white nationalism and violence across the United States, it is unconscionable for any company to provide a platform for organizations to peddle their hate,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Instead of profiting from racist ideologies, Amazon must take immediate action to ensure that its marketplace is free from dangerous propaganda. I’m proud to stand with our partners in the labor and progressive movements and with fellow New Yorkers to demand Amazon do the right thing and stop putting profit over people’s lives.” “The fact that Amazon is peddling this hateful paraphernalia is despicable. Amazon should know better and this needs to stop. I am proud to stand with the men and women of RWDSU in their campaign to bring an end to Amazon’s profiting off from hatred and bigotry,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. In the wake of the report by the Action Center on Race and the Economy and the Partnership for Working Families the RWDSU and community groups have been collecting signatures against Amazon. At the action on July 17, 2018 they submitted a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos calling for change. The letter reads: Dear Jeff Bezos and Amazon Board of Directors, While incidents of violence by individuals associated with white nationalist hate groups are on the rise, Amazon continues to be a platform for the celebration of ideologies that promote violence against black people, communities of color, LGBTQ people, women, Muslims and Jewish people. Right now, Amazon is a safe haven for those who seek to spread and profit from these hateful ideas. A report by the Action Center on Race and the Economy and the Partnership for Working Families found that your company enables the spread of violent ideologies by allowing the sale of hate symbols and imagery on the site, including confederate and anti-Black imagery, Nazi and fascist imagery and the newly adopted imagery of the modern white nationalist movement. Some of these products are even targeted toward children. Additionally, white power and "hatecore" music is available on Amazon’s streaming platform, hate literature is available in Kindle ebooks, and known hate groups are using Amazon’s web content delivery network. Serving as a platform for hate just to turn a profit is dangerous and unacceptable. Amazon must take a public stand against this hate and violence and take action to ensure that it is not profiting from hate or enabling others to profit from hate. Amazon must: Take a clear public stand against hate movements and their ideologies and publicly pledge not to profit from hate. Develop more robust policies for all of its platforms in consultation with experts who study hate movements and symbols, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. These new policies must be consistent and transparent and evolve appropriately as hate movements and their symbols evolve. Develop and resource transparent enforcement mechanisms to ensure that Amazon and its users and clients are adhering to its policies. Stop letting its platform be used to sell items featuring hate symbols. Destroy any merchandise displaying hate symbols currently in Amazon-controlled warehouses and distribution centers. Stop facilitating the publication and distribution of hate movement propaganda. This means that Amazon should: Stop providing web content delivery services to identified hate groups. Remove electronic books by racist propagandists and authors connected to hate groups from Kindle ebooks. Stop allowing hate literature to be published via Kindle Direct Publishing. Stop making white power and “hatecore” music available on its streaming platform. Across its platforms, Amazon has the right and responsibility to determine what it sells, publishes and helps to deliver online. Now is the time to make clear that Amazon does not support or condone the spread of white nationalist ideologies. Now is the time to stop doing business with racist hate groups!

Coca-Contract Brings Gains for Indiana Workers

A new five-year agreement between Local 1096 members and Coca-Cola in Indianapolis, Indiana, was overwhelmingly ratified, bringing workers numerous improvements, including annual raises of 50 cents an hour, and a $1,000 ratification bonus. The new contract also brings the union into new employee orientation meetings so that new employees will better understand union benefits and how to get involved in the union. The contract also brings workers double pay when their shift extends over the course of two days and expands discrimination protection to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. Uniform and footwear will be provided annually, and vacation and work-related injury policies were improved. The new agreement will continue to provide employees health insurance coverage for the next five years, locking in the percentage of the premium the employees currently pay, for the life of the Agreement. In addition, the pension multiplier was increased. Serving on the Negotiating Committee were Kenny Bellamy, Karen Burnside, Lewis Allen, Paul Pearson, and Steve Foster. They were assisted by Indiana Joint Board President Dave Altman.