We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either.
Well, we understand unions work in some industries, they would conflict
with our culture, customer obsession and direct working relationship.
Throughout Amazon's 25-year history, there have been multiple rumblings of
workers trying to unionize.
The people united will never be defeated.
But none of those efforts have been successful.
Amazon remains nonunion, in part by training its managers how to handle
union efforts, like in this video, which was sent to Whole Foods managers
We do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers, our
shareholders, or most importantly, our associates.
Efforts by big businesses to fend off organized labor are increasingly
common in America, while union membership has dropped considerably since
its heyday 50 years ago.
But with record-breaking sales numbers and newly doubled shipping
speeds, momentum to organize has picked up among some of Amazon's more
than 650,000 worldwide employees.
We work, we sweat, Amazon workers need a rest.
Three big unions that are talking to Amazon workers are the Teamsters, the
United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Retail, Wholesale and
Department Store Union, among others.
Last year, the CEO of Axel Springer asked Jeff Bezos his stance on unions.
We don't believe that we need a union to be an intermediary between us and
But of course, at the end of the day, it's always the employees' choice,
and that's how it should be.
No organizing efforts have gotten very far.
We wanted to find out: what are unions all about and how could they impact
Amazon and its workers.
First off, what exactly are unions?
A union is a membership organization that exists because a group of
employees share a common interest.
Most of today's major unions formed in the late 19th and early 20th
century so that they could bargain collectively against the huge
organizations that they worked for.
Each union collects a different amount of dues from its members, usually
around 1 to 1.5%
of each paycheck.
And there's often an initiation fee when you first join a union shop.
They don't have investors.
They don't raise money for profit, unlike corporations.
The reason why unions typically charge dues is the same reason why every
other membership organization, whether it's the National Rifle Association
or the American Civil Liberties Union charge dues is because they
undertake to provide services to their members.
Certainly they will pay for administrative costs, the salaries of the union
organizer or the union reps, but they also go to the union national as
well. So some certainly larger, more institutional unions have their own
national political lobbying interests.
And even if union members don't agree with the message that their unions
are sending nationally or politically, those dues are still going to be
used for those types of lobbying efforts.
And if you're able to unionize an entire workforce, that is millions of
dollars that goes into the union coffers.
In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act was passed protecting the rights
of employees to act together as a group in the workplace.
It prohibits employers from firing or retaliating against an employee for
organizing. The National Labor Relations Board is the federal agency
tasked with enforcing these rights and all unionizing efforts must go
through an official filing process with the NLRB.
It's the unions that, you know, brought us the weekend. It's
the unions that helped get rid of child labor.
Unions had their heyday in the U.S.
almost 50 years ago with 381 major strikes that resulted in work stoppages
Last year, there were only 20.
Unions have been under a concerted attack from businesses and even from
So it's no surprise that today in the private sector, only about 6.5% of
workers are unionized.
That's down from, it used to be well over a third in the 1970s.
Total compensation for union workers, including things like benefits and
retirement, costs employers on average 14 dollars more per hour worked
versus paying a nonunion worker.
So companies do a lot of work and pay a lot of money to make sure that
their ability to form unions is not done very efficiently or easily.
A Pew Research Center poll last year showed 55% of Americans hold a
favorable view of unions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that last year, unionized workers
made on average $191 or more than 22% more than nonunion workers each
week. But unionizing comes with downsides, too.
It makes communication very difficult sometimes between the employees and
the employer because after a union is brought in under the National Labor
Relations Act, the employer is no longer allowed to directly deal with
employees. It's also very difficult to innovate.
They may have different ideas for policies, different ways of doing things
that they just want to experiment with.
And with a union in place.
It makes it really difficult to do that because everything has to be
negotiated with the union at that point.
So companies routinely complain that having a union means that the
supervisor can't talk to the workers directly.
And that is simply false.
Unionizing starts with workers, usually from a single work site like one
Amazon fulfillment center talking amongst themselves outside of work
hours, often holding informal meetings and discussing shared concerns.
If momentum builds, workers then select a union they feel best represents
In Amazon's case, workers have talked to the Teamsters, UFCW and RWDSU.
We have in fact talked to hundreds and hundreds of workers around the
country in different locations.
They called the union and said, 'We've got problems.
Can you help us?'
If there's enough support, workers then sign union cards.
The employer then has the choice to voluntarily recognize the union.
If that doesn't happen and it often doesn't, a date is set for an official
election where a simple majority wins.
At that point, many employers choose to run an anti-union campaign.
If this vote fails, that union is banned from organizing workers at the
site for a year.
Amazon workers we talked to expressed opinions on both sides of the union
debate. But whether Amazon workers are currently signing authorization
cards is a closely guarded secret.
The only thing that you can do on an organizing campaign is operate under
surprise. If an employer knows that you're signing cards and doing things
like that, they will come after them tooth and toenail.
Amazon workers need a rest.
The most recent example of workers and unions taking action happened on
Prime Day in July, when a handful of Amazon workers at one fulfillment
center outside Minneapolis went on strike.
We are trying to be one and we are, you know, it's not like we don't want
to work here, but we just want change.
It was the first strike by U.S.
workers during the company's annual sales event that started five years
ago. About 80 people gathered in support of the workers who chose to walk
out past a line of around 20 security guards and police.
In Shakopee, workers held other rallies in March and December calling for
better working conditions.
Amazon says the workforce at the 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center
there is 30% Somali.
We've done a lot to help.
Like do you need a prayer mat, do you need a prayer space, like let's get
one set up.
But other workers complain about working conditions, things like allotted
time off task and the expected pace of work.
They should make this a better workplace by reducing rates, improving
worker safety and bringing our temp brothers and sisters on as full time
employees. Management demands the best from its workers.
Now we want their best.
Politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren tweeted in support of
the strike, and three software engineers flew in from Amazon headquarters
to join the protest.
Without its employees, Amazon does not exist.
We are all partners in its success.
We deserve a say in how the results of our success, Amazon's profits and
its innovations, are being used.
The protest was organized by the Awood Center, an East African worker
advocate group that's backed in part by the Teamsters and the Service
Employees International Union, along with local labor groups like the
Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation.
The people who participated in today's event are mainly outside organizers
who are uninformed about what it's really like to work inside an Amazon
With only 15 employees who participated from this site, that tells me that
our employees truly do believe that they are working in a safe and
If only a couple of handfuls of workers at Amazon walked out in solidarity
and the vast majority didn't, doesn't say a whole lot.
They're always thinking in the back of their head, there's probably going
to be retaliation if I go out there. If
I go out there, I'm going to be named as one of the union organizers.
Amazon respects the rights of our employees and we have a zero tolerance
policy on retaliation for employees raising their concerns.
Although the Prime Day protests got a lot of media attention, Amazon said
it did not impact operations and that this year's Prime Day was the
largest shopping event in Amazon history.
Earlier this month, dozens of workers staged a walkout at an Amazon
delivery center in Eagan, Minnesota, over a lack of parking that led to
workers cars being towed.
We're going to be standing out here until we get a solution.
Shortly after, Amazon agreed to provide additional parking and repay towing
Amazon workers are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back.
Last year, workers held a series of protests in New York
with the backing of RWDSU calling for unionization after Amazon announced
plans to bring its second headquarters to Queens.
Within three months. Amazon
withdrew its HQ2 offer from the city.
If Amazon had lived up to the deal that they had agreed to with us and the
governor of New York, it would have shown a model that could be used
elsewhere. I think that's what Amazon was afraid of.
In a press release at the time, Amazon cited different reasons, saying, "A
number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose
our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships
that are required to go forward with the project."
After Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017, workers there also showed signs
Last September, The Wall Street Journal reported that a group of Whole
Foods workers sent an e-mail to workers at most of the 490 stores urging
them to back a unionization drive.
The UFCW sent CNBC 15 public statements from Whole Foods workers over the
last two years, laying out concerns about time off, training, workload and
In a statement, Amazon says, "No team member has decided to join a union
anywhere at Whole Foods Market.
Selective accounts from a small handful of individuals doesn't accurately
represent the collective views of our amazing 95,000+ team members.
The last official unionization attempt was in 2013, when Amazon
maintenance and repair technicians in Delaware officially filed with the
NLRB. The union was voted down 21 to 6.
Unions have been trying to organize Amazon since the early 2000s and it
really just seems like there aren't very many workers who want to join a
union at Amazon because if they did, they would have organized them
Well, I don't think it's that simple because as soon as there's any word
that authorization cards are being passed around, the companies generally
send out their HR people to try to quash whatever effort that labor
organization may be doing in order to sign workers up.
Workers at other big retailers have also failed to unionize in recent
years. Last year, workers at a Target store in New York voted 118 to 39
against forming a union under UFCW. WalMart
has successfully held off UFCW unionizing efforts for years. In
Europe, where unions have a stronger foothold, Amazon workers also remain
nonunion. But workers there have been more active, staging protests during
sales events for years.
In Germany, more than 2,000 people participated in Prime Day protests in
at least seven locations last month.
Well, I think that it's very likely that they're going to unionize in
Europe. I think it is difficult to union in the United States, especially
with a company the size of Amazon, for the following reason: our labor
laws aren't nearly as progressive.
Our social contract with workers is not as strong here in the United
Among developed democracies, the U.S.
has one of the lowest percentages of unionized workers.
% of wage and salary workers are members of unions.
Compare that to Finland and Denmark, where more than 60% of workers are
unionized. Still, some of Amazon's contract workers in the U.S.
are already unionized, like this Amazon Air pilot who was at the
protest in Shakopee.
Being part of a union that's working with one of the most powerful
corporations in the world, it can be daunting.
It's going to be a lot of work at the beginning, but I think the dividends
will pay off in the long run.
Amazon's response to workers who want to unionize.
We're already offering what unions are asking, which is industry leading
pay, great benefits and a safe and innovative workplace.
Among Amazon workers we talked to, some told us they're happy with their
I like the direct communication with my team and I always want that to be
there. So like, hey, if we have to do a change, we can do it right away.
That's our big, like Amazon I think that's like why we're so successful is
we can pivot if we need. And like
make sure that we're always keeping a focus on our
customers both internally and externally as well.
And I don't think that really works with our union kind of environment.
But that's just my personal opinion.
Well, I have excellent healthcare, excellent dental, excellent vision.
I have a retirement plan now.
You know, I didn't have that before.
I love my job.
I love the benefits.
I love the people I work with.
While we've been building a great customer experience, we've been equally
focused on building a great employee experience, whether that's where you
get egalitarian benefits, where I have the same benefits as everybody else
in this building does, or our career choice program.
Our $15-an-hour minimum that we rolled out in the U.S.
Amazon is also known for helping associates advance. Its
career choice program pays up to 95% of tuition for associates study in
high demand fields.
And last month, Amazon pledged to spend $700 million to retrain a third of
workforce by 2025 to move to more advanced jobs.
Money is one big reason experts told us that Amazon prefers its workers not
to join a union.
If the union contract says that they have to slow down how fast they're
sorting through packages and things like that, then they're either going
to have to bring on a huge number of more employees, which is certainly
costly, or they're going to have to only deliver things in a week's time
and then you're going to lose your competitive advantage.
Workers who vocally support unions are protected by the NLRB.
And so the company will find a reason to fire the union organizers.
They know it's illegal.
When it's ultimately adjudicated, the company will be ordered to reinstate
the fired employee with backpay, but the company will say, '"Meh, the cost
of doing business," and the longterm pay off is no union.
We are not robots.
One worker who protested in New York was fired a month later for what
Amazon said was an unrelated safety violation.
He's now filed a complaint with the NLRB.
Any sort of campaign there are going to be those types of charges.
So doesn't necessarily mean that they're being targeted because of their
It could just very well be employees who have performance problems, don't
follow the rules and are now choosing to claim that they're being
The NLRB also has open cases with Amazon in Ohio, Colorado, Kentucky,
Maryland, Washington, Illinois and in Shakopee, Minnesota, the site of
last month's Prime Day protest.
Amazon is not alone.
In 2014, the NLRB filed a formal complaint charging WalMart illegally
fired, disciplined or threatened more than 60 employees in 14 states. With
1.5 million U.S.
employees, WalMart is the country's largest private employer.
Unionizing efforts succeeded only once at WalMart when meat department
workers at one store in Texas joined the UFCW in 2000.
But two weeks later, WalMart announced it was switching to prepackaged
meat and eliminated butchers at that store at 179 others.
And in 2015, WalMart closed five stores that the UFCW says was in
retaliation for labor activism.
If you see warning signs of potential organizing, notify your building HR
M and GM site leader immediately. At
Amazon, where efforts haven't come as far, this 2018 leaked Whole Foods
video illustrates some ways companies hope to prevent unionizing efforts.
Make it a point to regularly talk to associates in the break room.
This will help protect you from accusations that you were only in the
break room to spy on Pro Union Associates.
The video that Amazon put out that was discouraging workers from unionizing
is classic union busting material we see over and over again at companies
all across this country.
And what it's designed to do is basically have a chilling effect.
It's not hard to imagine how far a union organizer might go to get you to
sign their card.
We hope that you never have to deal with a union organizing drive in your
That type of education for managers is fairly common.
I mean, they don't know what they're able to say and what they're not able
to say under the law.
It can be very tricky.
So certain types of training, I think is actually a really good idea.
Amazon is also recruiting a handful of Employee Relations Managers who are
required to have significant experience in handling union organizing
activities, and they'll be responding to union activity, among other
duties. On Twitter, a group of Amazon employees known as Fulfillment
Center Ambassadors actively tweet about how much they love working at
Amazon, often in response to threads about poor treatment of Amazon
workers. Some FC Ambassadors have tweeted messages like, "Unions are
thieves," and "Union protection makes it hard for employers to discipline,
terminate or promote.
How likely it is that Amazon workers will unionize.
Depends largely on who you ask.
That's going to be very tough.
They have never ending resources and money to make sure that the workers
never get to come to the bargaining table with a union.
So I think it's going to be a long uphill battle.
So it might be difficult to organize employees around issues such as wages.
But then there are other issues, such as productivity and job safety,
automation, that warehouse employees across the country at Amazon might be
And if the unions are able to kind of galvanize on that, I think that
could make it really difficult for Amazon to keep their workplace union
And if Amazon workers do unionize, it would impact a wide range of
Amazon is a retailer, but it's also a transportation company.
It's a media company.
It's, you know, in the pharmaceutical business.
I mean, it would reverberate all across the economy and provide hope for
working people everywhere.
I think this would have a huge impact.
The tech industry has not been strongly unionized at all.
And if a company like Amazon were unionized.
My guess is that other tech-based employers would also face similar types
of unionization movements.
So this could very well be the type of foothold that unions are looking
for when they're trying to unionize the entire tech industry.