Sanders and Warren Demand Bezos Answer for Amazon’s “Potentially Illegal” Union Busting

Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, founder of space venture Blue Origin and owner of The Washington Post, participates in an event hosted by the Air Force Association September 19, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

We write to express our alarm at recent reports that your com­pa­ny is dis­trib­ut­ing anti-union mate­ri­als to Whole Foods man­agers that directs and encour­ages poten­tial­ly ille­gal inter­fer­ence with the rights of thou­sands of workers.”

After a leaked train­ing video pro­vid­ed a rare glimpse into the aggres­sive tac­tics Ama­zon deploys to pre­vent its work­ers from orga­niz­ing and bar­gain­ing for bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions, Sens. Eliz­a­beth War­ren (D‑Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.) sent a let­ter to CEO Jeff Bezos on Wednes­day express­ing alarm at his tril­lion-dol­lar com­pa­ny’s poten­tial­ly ille­gal anti-union behav­ior” and demand­ing a copy of the full video.

It is impor­tant to rec­og­nize that work­ers’ rights do not stop at the min­i­mum wage, and rais­ing the pay of your low­est-paid work­ers, while impor­tant, does not give you a free pass to engage in poten­tial­ly ille­gal anti-union behav­ior,” the sen­a­tors wrote, ref­er­enc­ing Ama­zon’s recent deci­sion to raise the min­i­mum wage of its U.S. employ­ees to $15 an hour in the face of mas­sive grass­roots pressure.

It is also impor­tant to note that, absent a union, Ama­zon remains free to uni­lat­er­al­ly can­cel the increase or make oth­er cuts to com­pen­sa­tion,” Sanders and War­ren con­tin­ued. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Ama­zon’s recent con­duct pro­vides a telling exam­ple: imme­di­ate­ly after announc­ing the wage increase, Ama­zon cut bonus­es and elim­i­nat­ed stock options for ware­house workers.”

As Com­mon Dreams report­ed last month, the 45-minute train­ing video — which was dis­trib­uted to man­agers at the Ama­zon-owned Whole Foods — instruct­ed com­pa­ny lead­ers on how to spot ear­ly warn­ing signs” of poten­tial union­iza­tion efforts among employees.

Two such warn­ing signs, accord­ing to Ama­zon’s video, are work­ers sud­den­ly hang­ing out togeth­er” and using union words” like liv­ing wage.”

It speaks vol­umes to how Ama­zon views its work­ers when they use para­noid rhetoric toward union­iz­ing like unusu­al group behav­ior” pic​.twit​ter​.com/​O​p​e​6​U​r53tb

 — Michael Saina­to (@msainat1) Sep­tem­ber 272018

In their let­ter, Sanders and War­ren also demand­ed that Bezos explain dis­turb­ing alle­ga­tions” that Ama­zon has recent­ly fired work­ers who have raised con­cerns about the com­pa­ny’s low pay and poor work­ing conditions.

Such retal­i­a­tion, the sen­a­tors note, would con­sti­tute a seri­ous vio­la­tion of fed­er­al labor law.

Pro­tec­tions for work­ers to join togeth­er in their work­places to fight for high­er wages, stronger ben­e­fits, and bet­ter con­di­tions — with or with­out a union — are fun­da­men­tal to law­ful labor-man­age­ment rela­tions and have been enshrined in fed­er­al law for near­ly a cen­tu­ry,” Sanders and War­ren con­clud­ed. Enforce­ment of these pro­tec­tions is cru­cial for ensur­ing that work­ing peo­ple have the basic tools to express them­selves and their con­cerns, to do so col­lec­tive­ly with oth­er work­ers if they choose, and to have mean­ing­ful oppor­tu­ni­ties to fight for a bet­ter life for them­selves and their families.”

This sto­ry was first pub­lished on Com­mon Dreams.

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