back to article What's a COVID-19 outbreak? Amazon gets all Trumpy over Alabama warehouse workers' mail-in vote to form a union

Amazon has taken a leaf out of a certain former president's playbook, insisting that mail-in voting will result in a false result. This time, however, it’s a vote by Amazon’s Alabama warehouse staff on whether to unionize. The vote is due to take place between February 8 and March 29, with thousands of warehouse workers asked …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When your company fights you this hard...

    ... you need a union.

    While Amazon is playing the oligarch playbook play by play, I think they are inadvertently becoming the reference "bad company" in this world of fast communication. This playbook worked years back, but today when 100,000 fans can be enlightened to your ethics in a single second, I'm not so sure these plays will continue to hold the line. In at least one way, Amazon needs a TV timeout.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: When your company fights you this hard...

      Amazon sucks, but other vendors are so uniformly and completely shit at taking orders and shipping stuff that they basically hand Amazon the world on a plate.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: When your company fights you this hard...

        I've been having to repair a lot of things recently, for whatever reasons [probably because the stuff is just old], like game consoles, monitor, even the KVM. More than half of it was NOT purchased on Amazon. But the rest was. Still I think I've spent less on Amazon over the last year than in previous years.

        I've also been trying to use 'other than Amazon' when i can. At the very least, my choice causes me to compare prices and delivery time/cost against whatever Amazon is offering. But sometimes it's about business, and prices, and service and "nobody else seems to have it". Still looking for those alternatives, though.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        "shit at taking orders and shipping stuff"

        Really? I had no problem with most shops I buy online.

        They may not be as fast as Amazon if you pay Prime - but who needs really everything delivered so quickly? Frankly I can wait a few days especially if it means delivery people can work better.

        And sure, the huge size of Amazon means it may have some items it's difficult to find elsewhere

        1. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: "shit at taking orders and shipping stuff"

          "especially if it means delivery people can work better."

          Sorry to break the bad news, but many companies treat the drivers like crap and have done for a long time.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Megaphone

      Re: When your company fights you this hard...

      It's not just oligarchs, most companies are anti union. And a successful vote doesn't ensure that a union will succeed. Instacart, a $30b food delivery company just announced layoffs that, surprise, include every unionized employee.

      1. willyslick

        Re: When your company fights you this hard...

        I would say the whole if the US and its politics have become anti-union: In 1953, 35.7% of private sector workers belonged to unions. By 2015, that number was 6.7% according to the govt's own statistics.

        The rich get richer......

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: When your company fights you this hard...

          In 1953, 35.7% of private sector workers belonged to unions. By 2015, that number was 6.7% according to the govt's own statistics.

          The rich get richer....

          And the workers get smarter.

          1. Arty Effem

            Re: When your company fights you this hard...

            At which point they resign and cease to be a problem to the company.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Megaphone

          Re: When your company fights you this hard...

          Good article in The Guardian with many more examples.

          https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/26/coronavirus-pandemic-unions-break

      2. LDS Silver badge

        "announced layoffs that, surprise, include every unionized employee."

        In more advanced countries they would have seen a judge looking at if they discriminated unionized employees... and if so voiding the layoffs.

    3. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: When your company fights you this hard...

      Is kind of funny as the same company also offered to distribute vaccines for free as long as their employees get vaccinated first.

  2. jake Silver badge

    The stupidity of the NFL player's union ...

    ... is a major part of why I don't bother watching the NFL anymore.

    I even gave up the season tickets I had for the 49ers since the 1970s.

    (You Brits wanting to comment ... keep in mind that a union in the UK is not a one-for-one analogue to a union here in the United States. The relevant laws are quite different. Trying to change this reality in a comment here on ElReg only makes you look silly.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      NFL Union since 1956

      They've been unionised since 1956 and collective bargaining since 1968. So your claim makes no sense.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NFL_Collective_Bargaining_Agreement

      So the fact they're in a union only started to bother you now? Let me guess Fox News viewer, only noticed when a player took a knee and the liars on Fox News started their mock outrage? "Oh but the constitution, the flag, patriotism, says the liars who tried to overthrow democracy on behalf of their Aussie boss"

      The people voting for a union know what they're voting for. Amazon has no say in where or how they vote. It just wants to throw as many road blocks along the way as it can.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: NFL Union since 1956

        I didn't say that was the only reason, I said it was a major part of the reason. There were a couple other major parts. I started getting irritated at the rich, whining idiots during the '87 season. It got progressively worse over time, but I tried to ignore it because I enjoy the sport. I finally gave up and sold my season tickets before the playoffs at the end of the 1995 season[0]. I miss the game, but I don't miss the constant bickering and whining.

        Me? Watch faux news? Hardly.

        Most of the people voting at Amazon probably have no clue what they are voting for. It's a lack of proper education thing, and it's not confined to union issues, it's ALL voting, pretty much world-wide. How's politics in your neck of the woods?

        [0] The team I had supported my entire life won the Super Bowl that year. I cared so little that I didn't even watch the game on TV. Instead, I went fishing that afternoon.

        One wonders how many of my downvotes are from people ass-u-me ing that your wild-ass guesses were somewhat close to accurate ... and THEY probably vote in General Elections! Scary, no?

        1. 9Rune5

          Re: NFL Union since 1956

          I started getting irritated at the rich, whining idiots during the '87 season.

          From an outsiders POV, I find it fascinating how much money is tied up in professional sports. And though part of me is jealous of the overpaid athletes, I'm even more jealous at the team owners who rake in even more money.

          I completely fail to see the value in anything those guys (be it owners or athletes) are doing. I get that it is a fun pastime activity (I too love playing various sports with friends), but to have that as a job? And an insanely well-paid job at that? wtf... (and then there are people who spend their time watching other people have fun? Some form of voyeurism? Or is it 'monkey see, monkey do'?)

          This world is nuts.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: NFL Union since 1956

            From the point of view of the owners, it's the ultimate cash cow. You have fans who are not only hooked on the sport, but they are fans of a specific team, typically for life. They're not going to go support a rival franchise just because you treat them as cash cows.

            My particular sports 'drug' of choice is 'real' football aka soccer, and I used to watch every match my team played, buy their stuff, pay for sports TV packages etc... I haven't bought any official merchandise for over 10 years, I switched to watching games in a mix of pubs (back when that was a thing) and streaming or whenever it's free-to-air. 'Overpaid' primadonnas many may be, but at least they're the ones providing the entertainment that's raking in billions, so I prefer it be taken by the players rather than the owners.

          2. Cynic_999

            Re: NFL Union since 1956

            For some reason most people have a psycological need to have a group of people to idolise, and a group of people to hate.

            It used to be gods and priests who were idolised, then royalty, now its "celebrities" (of film, music, sport).

            Groups to demonise and hate have changed more often. Witches, Blacks, Jews, Homosexuals, communists, any group labelled "terrorist," paedophiles.

            1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

              Re: NFL Union since 1956

              I upvoted you, however I want to point out I would hate paedophiles regardless of any psychological need. But only actual paedophiles, not the conspiracy theory kind.

          3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

            Re: Money in US Pro Sports

            not just pro sports.

            College Football is really big business. I recall reading somewhere that Miami U Football budget was some $200M a year.

            Silly money IMHO.

            Even the Cheerleader squad had more than $1M to spend.

            1. jmch Silver badge

              Re: Money in US Pro Sports

              College football is even worse since in theory it is amateur and athletes are not allowed to be paid. So the 'owners' (colleges) make a shit-ton of money and the athletes see none of it

          4. rg287

            Re: NFL Union since 1956

            I completely fail to see the value in anything those guys (be it owners or athletes) are doing. I get that it is a fun pastime activity (I too love playing various sports with friends), but to have that as a job?

            Don't act so shocked. We pay actors money to perform pieces of culture which could be written down and distributed as a book. It shouldn't come as any surprise that people enjoy watching individuals at the top of their craft perform their skills - whether that's acting a role, playing a sport (whether for points in a competition or for money with Cirque du Soleil) or working on a lathe (as the last 10 years have shown us, there's an audience on YouTube for makers, machinists and skilled artisans).

            Some of the sums do seem decidedly disproportionate though - but it's what the market will bear.

        2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: NFL Union since 1956

          @Jake - I realize that Americans don't generally get irony, but your comment on an article about a company trying to prevent people voicing their opinion (by voting) finishes by telling me, as a Brit, not to bother voicing my opinion. Maybe that's why you're getting downvoted.

        3. disgruntled yank

          Re: NFL Union since 1956

          Rich, whining idiots? The ones who pick up their franchises and move them across the country when a city won't build them a new stadium?

          The average length of an NFL career is quite short, exceptions such as Tom Brady's notwithstanding. The injuries inflicted in the course of that career stick with a man for good. Over the last few years, I have been reading the obituaries of men who played on the undefeated Miami Dolphins team of 1972. Generally I found "had struggled with dementia for several years", though I'm not sure that this was the case for Jake Scott.

          Do they whine? I don't think so. If they complain, they have matters to complain of.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: The stupidity of the NFL player's union ...

      Bwahahahahahaha.

      Pro athletes have the best unions in the world. Did you NOT know this?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: The stupidity of the NFL player's union ...

        Don't be silly. The officials in any given sport have a much stronger union that mere athletes.

    3. nematoad Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: The stupidity of the NFL player's union ...

      "You Brits wanting to comment..."

      Oh? is that a covert way of suppressing free speech? I thought that the "conservative" voters in the US were all for people holding and expressing their opinion.

      Or is it the case that unless you agree with the sentiments expressed they are somehow "fake news"?

      "Trying to change this reality in a comment here on ElReg only makes you look silly."

      Saying that makes you look censorious.

    4. naive

      Re: The stupidity of the NFL player's union ...

      Glad you explain it to the masses Sir Jake. "The land of the free" has become a totalitarian banana republic with rigged elections, silenced media who are only echoing the views of the one and only party in charge, no rights for workers to form an union and a distribution of wealth which would make most 17th century European aristocrats jealous.

  3. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Bad press for Amazon

    It's a bad move for Amazon in term of PR. In Europe such actions remember our past, when owners did whatever possible to forbid unions, and workers having sometimes to die for to get one. It will be used by opponents, and there are more and more against the 'Crushing Giant' Amazon now is.

  4. Muppetry

    Watching the watchers

    Part of the problem is that unions don't have a much better reputation than the employers. Each is motivated by power and control in their leadership, so each ends up being just as corrupt as the other.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Watching the watchers

      Exactly.

      And the poor employees now have TWO independent levels of management getting rich off their labo(u)r.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "Part of the problem is that unions don't have a much better reputation than the employers."

      Not everywhere. Usually mostly where unions are bound to political parties, and are used to sustain political agendas instead of workers' rights and salaries.

      Moreover most political agendas are easily lobbied by those with enough money. And of course in the US there were infiltration from organized crime too. That's what workers should absolutely avoid, or unions will start to care only about their managers "rights".

    3. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: so each ends up being just as corrupt as the other.

      Yeah, that's true. That's why half the richest people in the world are union reps.

      Or is it just another tired, oft repeated bit of anti union propaganda from the people with the money?

      Don't get me wrong, it's possible to find a company with good management who genuinely care about all their employees. Amazon isn't one of those. Amazon treats it's warehouse workers like machines and everyone who shops with them endorses it.

      They shouldn't need a fucking union, it's obvious they mistreat their workers. Why are you still supporting Amazon?

      1. Cynic_999

        Re: so each ends up being just as corrupt as the other.

        "

        ... and everyone who shops with them endorses it.

        "

        Sure. And everyone who buys cheap jeans endorses sweatshop labour. And everyone who drinks coffee endorses the exploitation of workers in the plantations. And everyone who uses products containing rare-earth materials endorses child labour. And everyone who drives a car endorses climate change. And everyone who buys products containing soya beans or palm-oil endorses deforestation. And ...

        Sorry, but I am not nearly wealthy enough to afford the luxury of being an "ethical consumer," and nor do I wish to become a subsistance farmer (even if I could afford the land to farm).

      2. disgruntled yank

        Re: so each ends up being just as corrupt as the other.

        Ahem.

        The Office of Labor-Management Standards of the the US Department of Labor has reports on the payments made to every employee or officer of every union in the United States. These are searchable on-line and freely downloadable as zipped, pipe-delimited files going back quite a few years. I have just done a quick search on a couple of union officers: Robert Martinez, president of the IAMAW (Machinists), made $371 thousand in 2019; Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO (for Brits, this is an umbrella group of most of the larger unions in the US), made $292 thousand. (For those who wish to fool with this sort of thing, https://olmsapps.dol.gov/olpdr/?_ga=2.237567109.481222231.1611665233-1694302402.1610122379#Union%20Reports/Yearly%20Data%20Download/ has the pipe-delimited files.)

        Now, I wouldn't mind either salary, and to be fair one must add that their benefits are very good. But in comparison to CEO or senior executive salary, they are pretty small potatoes.

        1. Cynic_999

          Re: so each ends up being just as corrupt as the other.

          "

          But in comparison to CEO or senior executive salary, they are pretty small potatoes.

          "

          Depends on the company. I'm pretty certain that the vast majority of CEOs earn less than $370k per year. You have to be CEO of at least a medium size company to earn the big bucks, and the majority of companies in the USA have fewer than 100 employees. Businesses defined as "small businesses" make up well over 99% of all US businesses (by number), and the average small business employs fewer than 20 people and has way less than $1 million turnover p.a. so the CEO is unlikely to be paid a great deal.

          https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Chief_Executive_Officer_(CEO)/Salary

          states that the average CEO salary is $155,342, but other sites have wildly different figures, probably depends what size of company they are looking at.

          Besides, your statement is in any case irrelevant. I could as well state that in comparison to an oil sheik, the salary of a CEO is pretty small potatoes.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: so each ends up being just as corrupt as the other.

            You need to compare with similar sized organisations if you want to make as point. Comparing some of the highest paid union leaders with an average CEO salary which you defined as including the 99% of companies with less than 100 employees is not useful.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Watching the watchers

      "Part of the problem is that unions don't have a much better reputation than the employers."

      That was certainly my relatively brief experience of unions. The small union representing scientists in the Civil Service seemed to have got together with the larger unions to shaft their members in a situation not dissimilar to this: https://dilbert.com/strip/2021-01-26 I don't know if this is still the case but wouldn't be surprised if it is.

      The last straw was calling us out on a one-day strike in support of what turned out to have been somebody else's negotiations. I think it cost them most of their membership in our department. They refused to publish a colleagues resignation letter in their magazine (which I'd never even seen) on the basis that they didn't publish letters from non-members.

      It may well be that Amazon employees could benefit from a union but it would be unwise to assume that it'll always be on their side. From Amazon's PoV it would be unwise to ignore a reasonably open vote from their membership irrespective of how it's conducted; the feelings that prompt the vote aren't going to go away.

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    Rudi Guiliani

    is available to lend his expertise to Amazon for $20,000 per day, or a special life-time of service deal for $1.3 billion

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Rudi Guiliani

      The epitome of a 'hot' lawyer.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    Running scared

    "Amazon is aggressively litigating every aspect of the effort to form a union at its warehouse."

    Thus proving that a union is needed.

  7. Danny 2 Silver badge

    'Wealth increase of 10 men during pandemic could buy vaccines for all'

    The report said that Mr Bezos's worth had climbed so much between March-September 2020 that he could have given all 876,000 Amazon employees a $105,000 bonus and still have been as wealthy as he was before the pandemic.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-55793575

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That sound you hear

    Is millions of Republicans laughing at Jeff Bezos. Mail in for thee but not for me.

  9. HungryMan

    Unions vs companies is really just fire vs frying pan

    I have had the displeasure of being in a union while working my way through collage. the Culinary Workers Union is one of the most corrupt organizations I have ever seen. there were bribes for politicians, intimidation of workers who don't want to vote in a union, followed by further intimidation of workers who did not want to join the union once it was voted in, and all kinds of cronyisms. for the 1930-1950s Unions used to be for making work places safe, and better pay and benefits for the workers, now it has become about paying union dues. nothing else matters. its all about the cash. it was not about making a better life for workers it is now all about making money that is then given to political causes that were not anywhere near related to making life better for employees. usually for team blue jackass. Government organizations like MSHA and OSHA now watch the health and safety, but could care less about how employees are compensated. also unions have driven many companies out of business by refusing to negotiate on pay packages or labor reductions when times get tough. which is why union membership in the US has dropped from around 30% to less that 7% since the 70s.

    Don't get me wrong. I am not totally anti union, companies like amazon would pay everyone minimum wage if they could get away with it. also in certain industries, union labor is better. Examples are the construction industry unions and machinists unions. those kinds of unions usually require a certain level of competency to meet certain pay grades, example apprentice or journeyman electricians. they also usually have a higher standard of work quality in my experience of dealing with both union and non union electricians. personally I would want union labor performing any maintenance of aircraft I fly on, because you know those companies will cheapen it because it is less expensive to pay off lawsuits and lost aircraft than to pay for competent labor with good pay and benefits. an example of this is the GM bean counters deciding it was cheaper to pay off lawsuits for dead people, than to pay 50 cents more for a spring in an ignition lock. air lines would do the same thing given to opportunity. these companies usually donate to team fat red elephant.

    bottom line is you will either take the shaft form the company or you will take the shaft from the union. the difference is the union shaft has barbs on it, so once it is in, you will never get it out.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Unions vs companies is really just fire vs frying pan

      First tech job, 17, I asked if there was a union. I was told never to mention the U word again or I'd be sacked. In place of a union the design engineers would bargain for worker's rights. They couldn't afford to sack all the design engineers, they literally knew too much.

      First unionised job I didn't join because shitty workers were getting away with shit.

      Next unionised job I joined because they were moderate and reasonable, and in retrospect allowed me to get away with shit.

  10. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Holmes

    Short term gain...

    Oh, you want to unionize and then demand higher wages. No problem. The cost of labor has now increased to the point where robotics makes more sense financially. We now need 150 unionized employees to do what 1500 did previously.

    Right, in 2018 the county spent $3.3M on road work and pay incentives to Amazon, including giving part of the city's occupational tax collected from employees to the company. They capped permit & business license fees for Amazon too. And there were "undisclosed incentives" involved.

    Congratulations to the new Union! You just incentivized Amazon to automate the jobs out of existence. Guess the politicians will need to answer to the voters now.

  11. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Mail in ballots

    Just a datapoint, and from the late 1960s, and from friends who worked for a certain very large utility company. Take with appropriate amounts of salt.

    There was an election, conducted by mail-in ballot, to move certain jobs from one union (generally "not so bad") to another (at last in some areas, including ours, considered a "company union" with a side of corruption).

    _Only_ the employees who had sent in their ballots by registered mail (with return receipt) ended up being tallied in their selected ("no") column.

    There were many "yes" ballots tallied, and quite a few folks who checked with their fellows who had not been quite so careful/paranoid.

    Something to consider when posting your ballot.

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