Two New York labor unions are joining a growing opposition movement to Amazon’s planned 25,000-person office in Queens.
Leaders of the Teamsters Joint Council 16 and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) have asked for meetings with city and state officials to discuss the project.
On Wednesday, the two unions will join a coalition of activists, community leaders, and elected officials for a rally at New York City Hall to protest the Amazon development, which is one half of the “HQ2” project that has been making headlines for more than a year. The rally is timed with a New York City Council hearing on the financing of the Amazon deal.
Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda and RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum sent letters to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to voice their concerns.
“Our unions have serious concerns about the way Amazon operates, and its well-documented record of anti-worker, anti-union behavior,” they wrote. “Amazon is a trillion-dollar corporation, controlled by the wealthiest man on the planet; yet it consistently mistreats and dehumanizes its workers — the very people who make the corporation successful.”
Amazon did not respond to GeekWire’s request to comment on the letters.
The labor leaders are asking New York officials to hold off in granting up to $3 billion in incentives to the company until it commits to “a fair process for all Amazon workers to form a union.”
RWDSU has already launched a unionization effort at Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center. Amazon employees across the country are considering similar actions. In Minnesota, Amazon warehouse workers held protests calling for better working conditions. Employees at Whole Foods, which Amazon owns, have initiated their own effort to unionize workers across the grocery stores.
Last October, Amazon announced it would raise its minimum wage for all U.S. employees to $15 per hour and vowed to lobby Congress to increase the current federal minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25. The move followed a high-profile dispute between Amazon and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders over pay and working conditions for the company’s warehouse workers.
In November, Amazon announced it would split its promised 50,000-person headquarters between New York City and a Washington, D.C., suburb in Northern Virginia. While Virginia officials approved a $750 million incentives package after just nine minutes of debate Monday, New Yorkers have not been as welcoming to the Seattle-based tech titan.
Protests broke out the day Amazon announced it would build a giant office in the Queens neighborhood Long Island City. New York lawmakers grilled Amazon executives in a public hearing a few weeks later.
Despite the opposition, the New York deal is likely to move forward. The mayor and governor are committed to seeing it through, bypassing the traditional land use process that requires a variety of approvals.