May 19, 2022

A Union Blitzed Starbucks. At Amazon, It’s a Slog.

“People who go to that length for a four-hour job — it’s a particular group of people who are really struggling to make it,” said Gene Bruskin, a longtime labor organizer who advised the Amazon Labor Union in the two Staten Island elections, in an interview last month.

As a result of all this, organizing at Amazon may involve incremental gains rather than high-profile election victories. In the Minneapolis area, a group of primarily Somali-speaking Amazon workers has staged protests and received concessions from the company, such as a review process for firings related to productivity targets. Chicago-area workers involved in the group Amazonians United received pay increases not long after a walkout in December.

Ted Miin, an Amazon worker who is one of the group’s members, said the concessions had followed eight or nine months of organizing, versus the minimum of two years he estimates it would have taken to win a union election and negotiate a first contract.

For workers who seek a contract, the processes for negotiating one at Starbucks and Amazon may differ. In most cases, bargaining for improvements in compensation and working conditions requires additional pressure on the employer.

At Starbucks, that pressure is in some sense the union’s momentum from election victories. “The spread of the campaign gives the union the ability to win in bargaining,” Mr. Logan said. (Starbucks has nonetheless said it will withhold new pay and benefit increases from workers who have unionized, saying such provisions must be bargained.)

At Amazon, by contrast, the pressure needed to win a contract will probably come through other means. Some are conventional, like continuing to organize warehouse employees, who could decide to strike if Amazon refuses to recognize them or bargain. The company is challenging the union victory on Staten Island.

But the union is also enlisting political allies with an eye toward pressuring Amazon. Mr. Smalls, the union president, testified this month at a Senate hearing that was exploring whether the federal government should deny contracts to companies that violate labor laws.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/12/business/economy/amazon-starbucks-union.html

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