BESSEMER, ALABAMA AMAZON UNION VOTE HANGS ON 416 CHALLENGED BALLOTS WORKERS AWAIT OUTCOME IN BID TO BECOME AMERICA’S FIRST UNIONIZED AMAZON WAREHOUSE WORKERS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 31, 2022 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 BESSEMER, ALABAMA AMAZON UNION VOTE HANGS ON 416 CHALLENGED BALLOTS WORKERS AWAIT OUTCOME IN BID TO BECOME AMERICA’S FIRST UNIONIZED AMAZON WAREHOUSE WORKERS Workers Look to Secure Right to a Union After Year-and-a-half-long Battle (NEW YORK, NY) – The results of the re-run vote to determine if the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) will represent workers at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama hinges on 416 ballots challenged by the parties. Amazon workers fighting for a voice and fair treatment in the workplace now await a hearing to determine the fate of the challenged ballots, which may have the ability to bring the workers the victory that they have sought for so long. After enduring an intensive anti-union campaign designed by Amazon, not once, but twice, to intimidate and manipulate, workers are seeking to finally have a right to fair representation, a seat at the table and a real chance to fix the litany of issues that have long hurt workers at Amazon. In response to the current tally of the union vote in Bessemer, Alabama, Stuart Appelbaum, President of the RWDSU issued the following statement: “Every vote must be counted. Workers at Amazon endured a needlessly long and aggressive fight to unionize their workplace, with Amazon doing everything it could to spread misinformation and deceit. We will hold Amazon accountable and we will be filing objections on their behavior. The tenacity and courage of these workers never wavered in this unnecessarily long process. Workers will have to wait just a little bit longer to ensure their voices are heard, and our union will be with them at every step to ensure their voices are heard under the law. What we do know is that this moment is historic, and the workers in Bessemer, Alabama, have inspired working people all over the country and all over the world to fight for change at their workplaces, including other organizing at Amazon around the country. This fight is the spark of the 21st century labor movement, and we know it will forever transform how Americans view unions in this country. This union election continues to show that the best way for working people to protect themselves and their families is to join together in a union.” VOTE NUMBERS: Total Ballots Counted so far: 1,868 Union Yes Votes: 875 Challenged Ballots: 416 Voided Ballots: 59 The re-run vote to unionize by workers at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama, was conducted by mail-in vote, with ballots due to the National Labor Relations Board for tabulation on March 25, 2022. This re-run election is the result of the company’s illegal conduct under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) during the first election, conduct which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concluded interfered with employees’ rights to a free and fair election. RWDSU is seeking to represent approximately 6,100 workers at the e-commerce giant. The workers in the bargaining unit would include certain full-time, part-time and seasonal workers at the warehouse. # # # 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.
NEW RWDSU MEMBERS AT GREENLIGHT BOOKSTORES AND YOURS TRULY STATIONERY STORES RATIFY STRONG FIRST CONTRACT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 31, 2022 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 NEW RWDSU MEMBERS AT GREENLIGHT BOOKSTORES AND YOURS TRULY STATIONERY STORES RATIFY STRONG FIRST CONTRACT (BROOKLYN, NY) – Late Wednesday night, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced that members at three Greenlight Bookstore and Yours Truly stationery, Brooklyn, New York locations have unanimously ratified their first union contract after joining the union in August 2021. “I am proud of all the work and consideration that we put into organizing our workplace and negotiating our first contract. And I’m excited that we are part of a wave of bookstore workers organizing across the country to improve their working conditions. Our organizing efforts began because we wanted to create a safer and more equitable workplace, especially for the many BIPOC employees hired as frontline booksellers during the pandemic. Our first contract does just that, increasing the base pay for new hires, scheduling annual wage increases, and providing health insurance options that will put money back in workers’ pockets. Bookselling is an industry driven by part-time labor, with so many workers juggling multiple jobs but receiving no benefits. In an economy where part-timers rarely receive any sort of healthcare benefits, I’m proud that we were able to secure an ancillary plan. Importantly, we established transparent procedures for discipline, channels for grievances, and a Labor Management Committee that will continue improving our workplace. We’ve put a lot of care into building our union, and I’m proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my co-workers to improve our working conditions,” said Maritza Montañez, Greenlight Bookstore worker and member of the bargaining committee. “When workers can count on the job security that only comes from a union contract they can truly excel at their jobs. The experienced book and stationery sellers at Greenlight and Yours Truly are committed to their customers and now people can shop there knowing they’re supporting good union jobs. The worker-led bargaining committee negotiated a strong first contract that will help them tremendously,” said Alvin Ramnarain, President Local 1102 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “We are proud of these new RWDSU members who have negotiated and ratified a strong first contract. The provisions these workers have won in this contract will make working at Greenlight Bookstore sustainable for full-time and part-time workers alike. Brooklynites can shop at their neighborhood bookstore knowing that workers are well taken care of by union members. This contract proves yet again that working people are better off when they have a union,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The vote to ratify the contract was conducted virtually on the evening of Wednesday, March 30, 2022. RWDSU Local 1102 represents approximately 40 workers at Greenlight Bookstore and Yours Truly, Brooklyn locations in Brooklyn, New York. The workers in the bargaining unit handle sales, stocking and information services in the stores. Union contract provisions include: An increase in the minimum hiring rate Annual wage increases amounting to 9% over three years Paid time off Paid holidays A gold healthcare plan for full-time workers, offering a lower deductible with more coverage than their previous plan A new ancillary Care Plan providing both full-time and part-time workers with telecare, vision insurance, and dental insurance The RWDSU also represents workers at book and stationery stores across New York City including McNally Jackson, Goods for the Study, and Book Culture. # # # 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.
BREAKING: WORKERS KEPT AT THEIR STATIONS FOR HOURS AMID HEALTH AND SAFETY INCIDENT AT BESSEMER, ALABAMA FACILITY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 26, 2022 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 WORKERS KEPT AT THEIR STATIONS FOR HOURS AMID HEALTH AND SAFETY INCIDENT AT BESSEMER, ALABAMA FACILITY Unknown Vaporized Substance Spread Throughout the Warehouse (BESSEMER, AL) – Midday yesterday, a compressor in the Bessemer, Alabama Amazon facility malfunctioned spraying excessive amounts of what workers thought at the time was smoke, but now understand to potentially be vaporized oil, into an air vent that rapidly clouded the air on the third floor of the warehouse. At approximately 1:30 PM CT, workers on the third floor of the warehouse were told to clock out and go on Voluntary Time Off (VTO), which is unpaid, and evacuate. Meanwhile workers on other floors were neither notified of this, nor told to stop working and the substance spread through the air vents. At approximately 4:30 PM CT, workers on the first floor of the facility began to see what they thought at the time was smoke. No facility alarms or notifications to workers via Go screens, the A to Z app, text messages or otherwise went out to workers at any time during the day. At approximately 5:45 PM CT, workers began to quietly leave the facility via word of mouth, with no specific notice from managers. When they exited the building, some limited fire and police service vehicles were on the scene and HR managers began scanning badges and telling workers to clock out of day-shift. Shift change at the facility is between 5:30 PM CT and 7:00 PM CT, and overnight-shift workers began to arrive at the facility while day-shift workers were waiting for more information. At 7:00PM CT, workers were verbally told to re-enter the building and begin their shifts, with cloudiness still in the air inside the facility. Workers have notified the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) of the incident, and are awaiting further investigation into the matter. It is unclear if the vaporized substance will cause any health issues or if it is caustic. “At first, I thought my glasses were just smudged, but then the air got thicker, and my co-worker said he thought it was smoke and we should leave. Everyone was very confused, and the lack of information made us feel very unsafe. We didn’t know what was happening and many of us sought safety in our cars and tried to get as far away from the building as possible. When I heard from my co-workers on the third floor that they were VTOed so many hours earlier I was shocked why they would have the rest of us keep working, and why there was no notification or alarm sounded for all those hours. I don’t know what I was breathing in for that long, and I don’t know if it’s still in the air at work today either. I feel very unsafe and I wish management would treat us like humans and care about our safety in a real way. Accidents happen, but there’s no reason why thousands of workers should have had to keep working breathing in what we thought was smoke for hours. Why is my health less important than a package getting shipped? Yesterday was the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which happened over 100 years ago; in 2022 workers shouldn’t have to fear dying in a fire at work,” said Isaiah Thomas, Amazon worker in Bessemer, Alabama. “Amazon knowingly kept workers at their stations for hours during the incident, failed to properly evacuate the facility, and told workers to go back to work before any clarity on the safety of the vapor in the air was known. It is unconscionable that Amazon would keep workers at their stations when there is a known health and safety issue. Workers' lives should never be put in jeopardy for profits, something Amazon has an inexcusable history of doing. Workers did the right thing leaving when they felt unsafe yesterday, and in reporting this to OSHA, who must investigate this fully. Amazon must be held accountable for this. We hope the substance workers were inhaling for hours has no long-term harmful effects, but the simple fact that workers were in that situation demonstrates Amazon’s blatant disregard for the health and safety of their employees,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). # # # 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.
REI workers seize their moment
By RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum Originally appeared in Amsterdam News Workers at the REI outdoor sports retail store in Soho have joined the RWDSU, becoming part of a national movement of workers standing up for themselves and demanding a voice at work. Starbucks employees, workers in the tech, new media, and video game industries, and employees at Amazon facilities—all are seizing this moment to improve their jobs and their lives through union membership. Last fall, we saw the “Striketober” wave, where more than 100,000 American workers participated in or prepared for strikes as workers’ leverage increased during the ongoing pandemic. We are seeing this increased activism because workers are demanding better, and declaring that they are worth more than corporate behemoths have been giving them. Low wages and poor treatment have spurred on the “Great Resignation,” which has caused a labor shortage as working people have stood up and said they’ve had enough. The 116 retail workers at the REI store in Soho demanded better. They knew that joining the RWDSU could help them deal with workplace issues including pay, a one-year wait for health insurance, scheduling problems, and understaffing. Like so many other working people, they stood up and demanded change at their jobs. However, like so many other working people, they faced an employer willing to do anything to stop their campaign, rather than addressing their concerns and creating a better workplace. REI touts itself as a “progressive employer” who closes its stores on Black Friday, invests in outdoors organizations, and above all, puts “purpose above profits.” However, when the workers’ started their union organizing campaign, REI, which claims to be a “different kind of company,” started behaving much like many other companies who have gone to great lengths to crush workers’ union campaigns, including behemoths such as Amazon and Wal-Mart. REI hired union-busting lawyer “consultants” to design and execute a classic union-busting campaign. They halted promotion opportunities for workers and held lengthy mandatory meetings where they spread misinformation about the union. And, in a unique, unprecedented new flourish, REI management produced a 25-minute anti-union podcast. It was all designed to intimidate and frighten workers. We saw a similar situation in New York last year, when “progressive” employer Housing Works, a nonprofit employing more than 600 new RWDSU members in NYC, engaged in the same kind of union-busting tactics. Fortunately, workers at both REI and Housing Works saw through the lies and misinformation, and with the aid of RWDSU organizers, were prepared for the union-busting onslaught. But the fact that these companies—espousing progressive values in progressive NYC—thought they could behave this way is frustrating, troubling, and outrageous. Workers in America are waking up to the fact they deserve better. And unions such as the RWDSU are fighting to help their voices be heard. But as long as employers feel comfortable lying to employees and intimidating them, it’s going to be an uphill battle for too many workers. We all need to speak out against union-busting dirty tricks, and we need to support these workers as they fight for better jobs and better lives. This is their moment, and with our help, it can grow into a flourishing movement.
REI SOHO WORKERS VOTE TO JOIN THE RWDSU
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 2, 2022 Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 REI SOHO WORKERS VOTE OVERWHELMINGLY TO JOIN THE RWDSU Workers Officially Form the First Union at Any REI Store (NEW YORK, NY) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), announced that by an overwhelming majority vote of 86 percent, workers at the REI Co-Op in Manhattan, New York have voted to join the RWDSU, making REI SoHo the first unionized REI store in the nation. Despite enduring a union busting campaign that included captive audience meetings, a halt on promotional opportunities, and even a 25-minute union busting podcast, workers have stood together to make REI the inclusive, progressive workplace it claims to be through their union. "I am proud to be here in this moment with my coworkers at REI SoHo as a part of this new wave of unionization efforts that is sweeping the nation. As members of the RWDSU, we know we will be able to harness our collective strength to advocate for a more equitable, safe, and enriching work environment. A union is necessary for many of us to achieve more stability and security in our lives which could allow for us to explore and play more outside of work! As green vests, we believe ‘a life outdoors is a life well lived’ and in order for that to be viable and accessible to us, we need to be at the bargaining table alongside REI leadership to work out a collective bargaining agreement that works for us. Hence, we're hopeful that REI meets us in good faith during negotiations for our first contract, while keeping our co-op values in mind and applying them to workers, so we can all demonstrate that we really do go further...together!" said Claire Chang, Member of the REI SoHo Organizing Committee and Retail Sales Specialist-Visual at REI SoHo. “History was made today! We’re excited to welcome the workers of REI SoHo into the RWDSU, marking the first-ever unionized REI store in the whole country. These workers have vast expertise in their field and have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to serve the outdoor community. They have stuck together through a horrendous union-busting campaign and have come out the other side stronger. The workers of REI SoHo are ready to negotiate a strong contract that will allow them to uphold the co-op’s progressive values while providing the top-notch service REI customers have come to expect. With a seat at the table, workers can make working at REI safe and sustainable for years to come,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The vote to unionize REI SoHo was conducted by an in-person vote in the REI SoHo breakroom on March 2, 2022, by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The RWDSU will represent approximately 116 workers at the outdoor sports equipment company in contract negotiations, which will commence this year. The workers in the bargaining unit include all full- and part-time sales specialists, technical specialists, visual presentation specialists, shipping and receiving specialists, certified technicians, operations leads, sales leads, and shipping and receiving leads. # # # 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.
2022 Free Tax Preparation
RWDSU provides free tax preparation for low-to-moderate income individuals and families. To make an appointment, call RWDSU during office business hours, 9 AM - 5 PM at (212) 684-5300 or email [email protected] Click below to download the flyers.
REI SoHo Workers Launch Petition Calling on REI to Stop Union Busting
Click the above photo to sign the petition! On January 21, 2022, we, the workers of the REI Union SoHo, presented to our managers all the reasons we wanted a union during our daily morning huddle. To us, a bunch of outdoor enthusiasts who love REI, we see the REI Union SoHo as a way of living up to the Co-Op’s stated core values. That same day, we also requested voluntary recognition of our union, while courteously notifying management that we planned to file an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in matters of collective bargaining. REI has ignored our request to voluntarily recognize our union. Instead, they’ve deployed textbook union-busting tactics, meant to intimidate and scare workers out of voting Union Yes. Since announcing our union, here’s just some of what we have endured: *Workers have been pulled into one-on-one meetings with management *Workers have been forced to attend captive audience meetings with executives brought in to convince us that a union isn’t the right fit for REI *Management has shared misinformation about unionizing, using language that is not neutral or objective *Management has posted an excessive amount of anti-union flyers around our pro-union flyers *Management has put a hold on any opportunities for promotion *Management created a Microsoft Teams channel for for staff to ask questions about the union election, but instead permitted it to be dominated by anti-union language not related to the election process *REI President and CEO, Eric Artz, participated in a one sided, 25-minute union-busting REI podcast Despite all of these scare tactics, we are more united than ever in our belief that a union is the best way forward for all of us. We, the workers of REI Union SoHo, deserve a free and fair union election. We are calling on REI to immediately halt all union-busting practices, and to remain neutral as workers vote on union representation. Sign the petition here!
BESSEMER, ALABAMA AMAZON WORKERS TO FILE PRECEDENT SETTING ULP CHARGES AGAINST AMAZON FOR MISCONDUCT IN RE-RUN ELECTION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, February 22, 2022 CONTACT: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259 BESSEMER, ALABAMA AMAZON WORKERS TO FILE PRECEDENT SETTING ULP CHARGES AGAINST AMAZON FOR MISCONDUCT IN RE-RUN ELECTION ULP Charges Include a Challenge to the Legality of Captive Audience Trainings, which Carries Precedent Changing Potential Under the National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel Memo GC 21-06 (BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA) – Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) will be filing Unfair Labor Practice charges (ULPs) against Amazon claiming that it has engaged in misconduct during the re-run union election in Bessemer, Alabama. This is the second set of ULP charges by the Union, showing a continuance of the company’s conduct aimed at interfering with the right of employees to organize. This rerun election is the result of the company’s objectionable conduct under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) during the first election, conduct which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concluded interfered with employees’ rights to a free and fair election. All the charges highlight examples of Amazon’s continued efforts to undermine and suppress workers’ right to a free and fair election. Despite the adversity, workers of the BAmazon Union continue to fight to ensure their democratic rights at work are respected and Amazon is held accountable for its outrageous behavior. Amazon’s actions, which are summarized below, violate the NLRA. SUMMARY OF ULP CHARGES: Removal of Union Literature from Breakrooms: BAmazon Union Worker Organizing Committee members have been posting pro-union literature in non-work areas on non-working time alongside anti-union postings from the company. These BAmazon Union fliers were removed by Amazon in violation of the law. Promulgating of a New Rule: Amazon promulgated a new rule limiting workers’ access inside the facility for any time period greater than 30-minutes prior to and after their shift. This rule is not in their policy handbook and violates status-quo under the law. Challenge Captive-Audience Meetings: Section 7 of the NLRA guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” as well as the right “to refrain from any or all such activities.” When workers are forced to attend required meetings during work-hours to hear the company’s anti-union propaganda that violates their right “to refrain from any or all such activities.” This ULP charges that Amazon is in violation of Section 8 (a)(1) and/or 8 (a)(3) of the Act and seeks to challenge the current, yet often challenged, case-law precedent, which has for too long allowed employers to compel attendance to anti-union meetings. These aptly named “Captive-Audience” meetings are coercive and workers should have the right, as is already protected under the law in Section 8, to not engage in them. The ULP charge seeks remedy via review of this law by the newly seated NLRB. “Removing union literature from break rooms, limiting workers’ ability to talk with each other, compelling attendance at captive audience meetings to listen to anti-union messages — all of these actions expose Amazon’s undisguised efforts to stifle workers’ voices and its contempt for their rights to join together. What’s Amazon afraid of?” said Wilma Liebman, former Member and Chairman, NLRB. “Amazon does not have the right to force employees to listen to its anti-union messages. That is not free speech, it is coercion,” said Craig Becker, General Counsel to the AFL-CIO and former Member of the NLRB. “Our organizing committee has worked hard to post our pro-union messaging fliers next to Amazon’s anti-union ones in the facility, as is our right under the law. I personally have hung up so many fliers on my very limited break time and during unpaid time off. I’ve done it because I so strongly believe we need to bring change with a union here. Not only was it discouraging to see our hard work removed, but it concerned us who was doing it given we know it’s protected under the law. When we heard from our co-workers that management was intentionally silencing us and removing our fliers it explained where the chilling effect among our co-workers was coming from,” said Anthia Sharpe, BAmazon Union Worker Organizing Committee Member, and Amazon BHM1 Associate. “You can see our faces on these fliers. We are the Union, and we will not stand for our messages to be ripped down. How dare they literally tear up our faces. It’s scare tactics plain and simple. I know my rights, and I know that this work is critical to ensuring we have a shot at equal time with our co-workers on why we think voting to unionize is our best chance at a better future. We will not be threatened, we will keep posting these and other fliers. Amazon is up to its same intimidation tactics, it must be stopped, and we must be permitted to have a truly free and fair election,” said Serena Wallace, BAmazon Union Worker Organizing Committee Member, and Amazon BHM1 Associate. “Being forced to attend the captive-audience anti-union trainings was degrading. Amazon treated us like mindless robots, downloading mis-information to us. And the irony is, these meetings are the longest I’ve ever gotten to sit at work. If it's impossible to allow me adequate break and bathroom time, why is it possible, let alone mandatory, for me to sit through hours of anti-union trainings? It should be our choice if we have to sit through one-side’s arguments or not, it’s protected under the law and needs to be stopped permanently,” said Roger Wyatt, BAmazon Union Worker Organizing Committee Member, and Amazon BHM1 Associate. “When I think about the union election I think of two sides, and that people need to hear both sides, but in a captive audience meeting people are only hearing one side. This time the meetings were the same lies that Amazon told before, but they’re still throwing it at you, throwing it at you, throwing it at you, sometimes twice a week. I went to sleep in some of the meetings, because I know what lies they were going to tell, and I'm so tired and some of the lies are just promises that they don’t keep. Too many of our co-workers voted no last time as a result of being forced to sit through hours and hours of lies in mandatory meetings, and now, like me, they're changing their minds and voting union yes. But what if we didn’t have this chance? We should have a choice whether or not to be subjected to these meetings, it’s our right under the law. If the company gets to speak, their opponent should as well,” said Steven Brogdon, BAmazon Union Worker Organizing Committee Member, and Amazon BHM1 Associate. BACKGROUND ON THE CAPTIVE-AUDIENCE ULP CHARGE: In MEMORANDUM GC 21-06, to All NLRB Regional Directors, Officers-in-Charge, and Resident Officers, the General Counsel of the NLRB Jennifer A. Abruzzo, requests that: “Cases involving unlawful conduct committed during a union organizing drive present particular challenges with respect to remedies. It goes without saying that the “laboratory conditions” necessary for a free and fair election are often difficult to restore sufficiently in the face of unlawful firings, threats of retaliation, surveillance, and other coercive tactics designed to root out and squelch union support among employees. However, effective remedies still remain at our disposal. The following, which does not represent an exhaustive list, are remedies that Regions should seek from the Board in all appropriate cases: Union access (e.g., requiring an employer to provide a union with employee contact information, equal time to address employees if they are convened by their employer for a “captive audience” meeting about union representation, and reasonable access to an employer’s bulletin boards and all places where notices to employees are customarily posted).” All files associated with this press release can be found here and are usable for publication. # # # The BAmazon Union is an organizing campaign of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). For more information, please visit our website at www.BAmazonUnion.org, Twitter: @BAmazonUnion.
Stop denying farmworkers overtime pay!
By RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum Originally appeared in Amsterdam News A business’s viability must not depend on the legally allowed exploitation of people which had originally been based on the color of their skin. That is morally indefensible. This is why New York needs to correct the glaring injustice in New York’s agriculture industry where farmworkers are denied overtime pay after 40 hours. Unlike most workers in the Empire State—and the rest of the country—New York’s farmworkers are currently denied overtime pay by New York law until they’ve worked 60 hours a week. This is a relic of Jim Crow-era labor laws that have historically treated farmworkers—the backbone of New York’s agriculture industry—as second-class workers. But with the proper action, that could soon change. As directed by the historic Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act (which in 2019 for the first time gave the state’s farmworkers the right to organize into unions) the New York Department of Labor has convened a wage board to hold hearings and consider changing the state’s regulations to reduce the 60-hour overtime threshold for farmworkers. The wage board needs to recognize that farmworkers—who have proven to be truly essential workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—deserve overtime after 40 hours, which has been long established for almost every other worker in this country. Just like all businesses, farms have financial concerns. But the industry cannot use these concerns to justify laws rooted in the darkest point of our history to exploit predominantly Black, Brown and immigrant workers. There is virtually no evidence to support industry claims that the difference between success or failure at New York’s farms depends upon the unjust 60-hour overtime pay threshold. Even some in the agriculture business agree, including David Breeden from Sheldrake Vineyards in the Finger Lakes region. “You know what’s expensive for the coal industry, not having child labor, but we got past that,” Breeden said during one of the hearings. Cleary, the farm industry will survive paying its workers fair overtime. The data in the nation’s largest farm state, California, shows that their 40-hour overtime pay threshold has not corresponded with any negative impacts or shocks to the California farm economy or labor market. Farms in Washington state, where 40-hour overtime has also been implemented, are continuing to thrive. Last year, the RWDSU helped farmworkers at Pindar Vineyard on Long Island become the first to win union membership. These essential working men and women are predominantly full-time New Yorkers. They have families here that they care for and they have family back home whom they also support. They want a better future for their children and work to provide a safe home for them. They take pride in their work, and they want and deserve dignity at work. This dignity can only be fully realized when these workers—whom New Yorkers depend upon every day—are treated fairly and enjoy the same rights as all other working New Yorkers. The wage board must implement a 40-hour overtime threshold for New York’s farmworkers, recognizing their contributions, and moving toward correcting the injustices they’ve suffered for decades.
Unionizing REI Workers Want Their ‘Progressive’ Employer to Pay a Living Wage
Last Friday, 116 employees at the Soho store in Manhattan filed for a union election with the Retail Warehouse and Department Store Union, the first of the retailer’s 15,000 employees nationwide to seek to form a union. REI has long cultivated an image as one of the nation’s most progressive retailers, shutting down stores on Black Friday for the past seven years and offering workers annual incentives that kick in when stores hits sales targets. But REI workers in Soho have many concerns that reflect the general precarity of working a non-union job in the retail industry. In particular, they want full-time status and benefits, COVID-19 protections, and guaranteed hours after the holiday season. Denend told Motherboard that despite working 40 hours a week, she and many of her coworkers are classified as part-time, and will not receive the healthcare benefits that come with full-time status until they’ve worked at the company for a year. She says workers at her store are frequently told “we don’t know” when they ask about how they can be converted to full-time status sooner. “There’s a lot of accountability and transparency issues,” she said. New hires at the Manhattan store start at roughly $18.90 an hour. MIT’s living wage calculator says a living wage in New York City is $21.77 an hour for someone without children. Read more about it at VICE