Amazon.com workers in Delaware to hold union election

Dec 18, 2013 by Jay Greene

A second front has opened in Amazon.com Inc.'s battle with unions - this one in the United States.

A small group of equipment maintenance and repair technicians at Amazon's Middletown, Del., warehouse has successfully filed a petition earlier this month to hold elections in January. For the past several months, Amazon has been battling German workers. On Monday, more than 1,000 members of German's Ver.di union, who don't have a contract, walked off the job at three Amazon warehouses there to protest their pay.

On Dec. 6, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers filed a union election petition with the National Labor Relations Board. The union, which also represents tens of thousands of Boeing employees, needed support from at least 30 percent of the 30 workers that it is hoping to represent in contract negotiations with Amazon.

Machinists spokesman John Carr wouldn't disclose the number of workers who petitioned to hold the election, which will take place Jan. 15.

"As an organization, our standard rule of thumb is that we tend to require two-thirds (support before filing a petition) because things are going to happen between now and that January election date," Carr said.

The workers' primary grievances, Carr said, are arbitrary job classifications, promotion and vacation policies.

"There's no rhyme or reason to how the company applies policy," Carr said.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek first reported the news of the union election in Delaware.

Amazon has staunchly fought unionization efforts over the years, and company spokeswoman Mary Osako said "we ... do not believe there is a need for third-party representation" at the Delaware warehouse.

"Amazon's culture and business model are based on rapid innovation, flexibility and open lines of direct communication between managers and associates," Osako said in a statement.

The company has no desire to seek union approval for workplace changes that could make operations more efficient. Last year, for example, Amazon spent $775 million to acquire Kiva Systems, which makes robots that help automate picking items from vast warehouses. A union could try to negotiate the implementation of those robots.

Osako said that the union is seeking to represent a small fraction of the 1,500 employees at the Delaware facility. She added that Amazon provides "competitive wages and comprehensive benefits" as well as bonuses and stock awards and pays 95 percent of tuition fees for employees.

Even though the number of workers seeking representation is small, Amazon is gearing up for the fight. It has retained Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, a labor law firm that has battled with unions in the past.

Even if the form a union, they'll still have a tough fight to win a contract. Despite some unionization efforts over the years, none of the roughly 110,000 Amazon employees work under a union contract.

Explore further: Amazon workers on strike in Germany

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Amazon workers on strike in Germany

Nov 25, 2013

Hundreds of Amazon.com Inc. workers are staging a strike in Germany and the union says there will be more to come in the run-up to Christmas unless the online retailer raises wages.

Hundreds of Amazon workers in Germany demonstrate

Apr 09, 2013

Hundreds of workers at the biggest German-based site of online retailer Amazon demonstrated on Tuesday, according to a trade union which plans strike action over better working conditions.

Amazon hit by first strike in Germany

May 14, 2013

German employees of Amazon staged their first-ever walkouts on Tuesday as the US Internet retail giant was hit by a dispute over pay.

Recommended for you

Amazon launches 3D printing store

3 hours ago

Amazon announced Monday the launch of an online store for 3D printed items to allow consumers to customize and personalize items like earrings, pendants, dolls and other objects.

Samsung delays Tizen smartphone sales launch

8 hours ago

Samsung Electronics said Monday it would postpone the roll-out of its new smartphone based on Tizen, a home-grown operating system aimed at breaking away from Google's Android system.

Chinese portal Sohu reports $45 million loss

11 hours ago

(AP)—Sohu.com Inc., operator of a popular Chinese Internet portal, said Monday it lost $45 million in the latest quarter while revenue rose 18 percent to $400 million.

User comments : 0