Jason Del Rey
In the first vote of its kind among workers employed by Amazon in the U.S., a group of up to 30 of the commerce giant’s warehouse workers at a Delaware distribution center voted against unionization today.
The group, which consists of equipment technicians and mechanics, was voting on whether it wanted to form a labor union with the help of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. A source with knowledge of the vote told Re/code that 27 of the 30 workers voted, and 21 voted against unionization. IAMAW spokesman John Carr confirmed that vote count.
“With today’s vote against third-party representation, our employees have made it clear that they prefer a direct connection with Amazon,” Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako said in a prepared statement. “This direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the wants and needs of our employees. Amazon’s culture and business model are based on rapid innovation, flexibility and open lines of direct communication between managers and associates. In addition to competitive wages with comprehensive benefits, bonuses, 401(k) with 50% match, innovative programs like Career Choice and stock awards, we provide a network of support to ensure our employees succeed.”
The voting workers, who make up just a small fraction of the more than 1500 employees at the facility, are not most concerned with the wages they are paid, IAMAW spokesman John Carr told Re/code on Tuesday. Rather, they’d like help negotiating around workplace issues such as vacation and promotion policies and seniority rules, as well as the possible creation of a safety committee, Carr had said.
“Against Amazon’s intense pressure on the inside with the avoidance law firm that they had, it was too much for these workers to overcome,” Carr told Re/code on Wednesday evening. “They didn’t feel comfortable doing so. [Amazon's] tactics … paid off.”
While a vote for unionization would have affected only a tiny group of employees in the near term, it would have served as a signal to workers at the company’s growing network of 40-plus fulfillment centers in the U.S. that unionization was indeed possible. Amazon has long opposed unions and has successfully fought against every past attempt in the U.S. to form one.
Over the past year, Amazon has been engaged in an ongoing battle with groups of its German workers who have organized strikes and protests over wages. The company was also the subject of an unflattering BBC documentary about worker conditions at some European facilities.
At the same time, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the December death of a 57-year-old man at an Amazon-owned package sorting facility in New Jersey. Management of the facility is outsourced to a logistics firm called Genco, and the deceased worker had been hired by a third-party staffing agency. OSHA has said the man was crushed by equipment.