Amazon Will Oppose a Union at NYC HQ
In a City Council hearing Amazon VP refuses to commit to supporting a worker's right to organize
In an effort to dampen down some of the opposition from New York City lawmakers over Amazon, Vice President Brian Huseman went before the City Council. At the hearing, Huseman was asked if Amazon would commit to staying neutral in a union organizing campaign. Of course, Huseman said no. Find out more from the NY Daily News below.
Amazon indicated Wednesday it will oppose attempts to unionize among its workers in New York City — drawing the ire of local politicians and putting unions supporting their Long Island City development in an awkward spot.
The question comes as Amazon plans to locate half of its second corporate headquarters in Long Island City — and after it has opened a massive warehouse in Staten Island where workers have already sought to unionize.
“Would you agree to neutrality if workers at Amazon wanted to unionize?” Council Speaker Corey Johnson asked during an at-times heated Council hearing on the finances of the Amazon deal.
“No, sir,” Amazon Vice President Brian Huseman said.
That set the tone for the rest of the hearing — with Johnson grilling Economic Development Corp. President James Patchett, asking whether the de Blasio administration was “comfortable” with that answer.
“You know the mayor is an enormous supporter of union rights in the city,” Patchett said, to laughter in the crowd of spectators.
The mayor, asked about the comments at an unrelated Bronx press conference, said he’d pressure Amazon to allow for unionization.
“This is my message to Amazon: Welcome to New York City; this is a union town. There’s gonna be tremendous pressure on Amazon to allow unionization, and I will be one of the people bringing that pressure,” he said.
But it seems the city did not apply pressure when it might have had the chance — during the negotiations to secure the headquarters.
Johnson quizzed Patchett on whether the city had asked Amazon to be neutral when unions seek to organize, and Patchett would only say the city made clear union rights were important.
Patchett noted the city had reached an agreement with Amazon to use union building staff through the Service Employees International Union’s Local 32BJ, and that the deal is backed by the Building and Construction Trades Council.
“Not all unions. You picked a couple of unions, so some workers were valued, and other workers were not valued,” Johnson said. “And you’re pitting some workers against other workers, which isn’t right.”
Huseman, the Amazon vice president, said employees are better off without unions.
“We respect an employee’s right to chose or to choose not to join a union. We do firmly believe that the direct connection we have between our employees, and an open door policy, is the most effective way to respond to the concerns of the workforce,” he said.
The answer didn’t sit well with the pro-union members of the City Council.
“You are in a union city,” Johnson said. “That is not a way to come to our city, a city where 20% of our people live at or below the poverty line.”
Councilman Daniel Dromm, chairman of the Finance Committee, urged Amazon to reconsider and pointed to the concerns of Staten Island workers, who in announcing their union bid said some of them were urinating in bottles to avoid taking the time to go to the restroom.
“So is Amazon a pleasant place to work?” Dromm asked.
Huseman said it was, and that Dromm should speak with Staten Island employees Amazon had brought to the hearing.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Long Island City and has opposed the deal, ripped the company.