Queens electeds and retail union representatives gathered outside City Hall today to announce the release of a shocking new report – one they say exposes the amoral business practices of the retail giant Amazon.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued the report, entitled What’s Wrong with Amazon?, which was compiled amidst mounting backlash towards Amazon’s decision to open its new corporate headquarters in Long Island City. RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum led the conference with accompanied support from State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Woodhaven), State Sen.-elect Jessica Ramos (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) and City Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, Dutch Kills) and Rory Lancman (D-Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Electchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills, Jamaica).
The report came on the heels of massive protests against Amazon on Cyber Monday, as New Yorkers stormed Amazon bookstores to voice their discontent with the company’s poor treatment of its workers and its disrespect for labor unions.
“Any company being welcomed into New York to create jobs should have a record of treating workers fairly and respecting unions,” said Stuart Appelbaum. “Amazon has a record of routinely mistreating and exploiting its workers on all levels – whether they are employed in its corporate offices, or in its warehouses.”
Manhattan Councilmember Ben Kallos summarized some of the report’s more sobering findings – including evidence that Amazon workers regularly risk injury and death on the job in their facilities.
“This report scares me to death,” said Kallos. “Amazon is in the practice of having such dangerous conditions that they actually have ambulances parked on sight [outside their facilities]. And while I’m glad they weren’t among those who died, that’s not what we should be adding to this deal – a helipad plus four ambulance bays for all the people who are going to get hurt doing this job!”
Van Bramer conceded that he, along with most of New York’s electeds, signed a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos 15 months ago inviting Amazon to set up its second headquarters in one of the five boroughs. However, as he pointed out, the letter was sent before any of them knew about Amazon’s unscrupulous practices – or the fact that Bezos would be receiving billions of dollars in subsidies to set up shop in Queens.
“Some of us signed a letter about fifteen months ago, but nothing that we know now was known then,” said Van Bramer. “And this report should make clear to everyone what Amazon is about and what they’re doing to their employees.”
Gianaris insisted that “the fight is just beginning”, and that the people of New York still have time to stop Amazon from taking root in Long Island City.
“Those that tell you this is a done deal, don’t believe them,” said Gianaris. “No matter how much they try to prevent oversight… there are people here who represent the public. The public is not happy about what’s going on right now.”
Rory Lancman concurred, adding that if Amazon does follow through with its plans for the second headquarters, they’ll have to do it on New York’s terms.
“This is an opportunity for us… to ensure that Amazon, which has one of the worst labor records of any company in the United States, is going to abide by our New York values,” said Lancman. “They’re going to treat their workers – the people who build the buildings they’re going to work in, the people who work in those buildings – with dignity and respect. They’re not going to interfere with their right to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, better retirement and a better future. This is the minimum, the minimum, that we must demand of Amazon.”