After Amazon employees in a massive Staten Island warehouse scored a surprise union victory last month, he turned union leaders into celebrities, sent shock waves through the broader labor movement and prompted politicians across the country to rally around Amazon workers. Now it also appears to have caused repercussions within the ranks of Amazon’s management.
Four current and former employees with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said on Thursday, Amazon told more than half a dozen senior managers involved in the Staten Island warehouse that they had been fired.
Three people said the dismissals, which occurred outside the company’s typical employee review cycle, were seen by managers and other people working at the facility as a response to the Amazon workers’ union victory. Warehouse workers voted by a wide margin to form the company’s first union in the United States, in one of the biggest victories for organized labor in at least a generation.
News of the change spread to the warehouse on Thursday. Several directors were responsible for implementing the company’s response to union efforts. Many of them were veterans of the company, with more than six years of experience, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
Workers who supported the union complained that the company’s health and safety protocols were too lax, particularly regarding Covid-19 and repetitive stress injuries, and that the company pushed them too hard to meet performance goals, often at the cost of adequate rest periods. Many also said that warehouse wages, which start at more than $18 an hour for full-time workers, were too low to live in New York City.
Understand Amazon’s unionization efforts
An Amazon spokeswoman said the company made the management changes after it spent several weeks evaluating the “operations and leadership” aspects of JFK8, the company’s name for the warehouse. “Part of our culture at Amazon is continuous improvement, and we believe it is important to take the time to review whether or not we are doing our best for our team,” said Kelly Nantel, a company spokeswoman.
Two people said managers were told they were fired as part of an “organizational change.” One person said that some managers have been strong performers who have recently received positive reviews.
The Staten Island facility is the only Amazon fulfillment center in New York City, and current and former workers at the facility have organized for a year to form an upstart and independent union.
The company challenges the elections, saying that the union’s unconventional tactics were coercive and that the National Labor Relations Board is biased in favor of the union. The union is working to maintain pressure on Amazon until it negotiates a contract.
Christian Smalls, president of the Amazon Workers Union, auditioned Thursday before a Senate committee that was exploring whether companies that violate federal contract labor laws should be dismissed. Mr. Smalls later attended a White House meeting with other labor regulators in which he directly asked President Biden to pressure Amazon to recognize his union.
A White House spokeswoman said it was up to the National Labor Relations Board to certify the latest election results but emphasized that Mr. Biden has long supported collective bargaining and workers’ rights to form unions.
Amazon said it invested $300 million in safety projects in 2021 alone and that it provides salaries above minimum wage with strong benefits like health care for full-time workers once they join the company.
More than 8,000 warehouse workers were eligible to vote, and the union was keen to connect with employees of different ethnic groups, including African Americans, Latinos, immigrants from Africa and Asia, as well as those of different political beliefs, from conservatives to progressives.
Company officials and advisors held more than 20 mandatory daily meetings with employees in the run-up to the elections, as they sought to persuade workers not to support the union. Officials highlighted how much money the union would raise from them and emphasized the uncertainty about collective bargaining, which they said could leave workers worse off.
Labor experts say such claims can be misleading because it is unusual for workers to see their compensation reduced as a result of the bargaining process.
Roughly a month after the union victory at JFK8, Amazon workers at a smaller facility nearby voted against unions by a decisive margin.
The voices came during what would be an inflection point for organized action. While the rate of union membership reached its lowest level in decades last year (about 10 percent of American workers), petitions for union elections increased more than 50 percent from a year earlier during the six months ending in March, according to the National Labor Party. Relationships Council. The number of petitions is on track to reach its highest level in at least a decade.
Since December, workers at Starbucks have won primary union votes in more than 50 stores nationwide, while workers have organized or sought to organize at other companies that did not have unions before, such as Apple and outerwear retailer REI.
Grace Ashford Contribute to the preparation of reports. Shelag McNeill Contribute to research.