Amazon will fight efforts to unionize by NYC workforce

January 31, 2019

A rendering of One Court Square in LIC, where Amazon will temporarily move this year; via NYCEDC

During a heated City Council hearing on Wednesday, Amazon said it will oppose efforts by its New York City workforce to unionize. Speaker Corey Johnson asked Brian Huseman, the public policy vice president for Amazon, if the company would allow workers to unionize while remaining neutral during the process. Huseman responded, “No, sir,” establishing a tense tone for the rest of the hearing, the Daily News reported.

The oversight hearing is the second of three held by Council members, who hope to get more information on what they call a closed-door deal that drove the tech-giant to choose Long Island City as home to its second headquarters. Amazon announced last November its plans to split its new headquarters between the Queens neighborhood and Arlington, V.A., with each site creating at least 25,000 new jobs.

Public officials and advocacy groups have criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not including them in discussions with Amazon and for offering nearly $3 billion in incentives and grants.

On Wednesday, Johnson grilled James Patchett, the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, on why the agreement with Amazon did not include a clause about remaining neutral during unionization efforts. Patchett cited the agreement reached with Amazon to use union building staff through Service Employees International Union’s Local 32BJ and the support from the Building and Construction Trades Council.

“Not all unions. You picked a couple of unions, so some workers were valued, and other workers were not valued,” Johnson said. “And you’re pitting some workers against other workers, which isn’t right.”

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents LIC and has been a vocal opponent of the plan, called Amazon “dramatically anti-union” in an interview with WNYC on Thursday. He added: “That’s not a New York value. We can’t cave.”

During the hearing, Amazon touted its plans to fund computer science classes at 130 high schools throughout the city and to hire 30 New Yorkers living at NYCHA developments for customer service jobs. Home to about 6,000 residents, the largest public housing project in the country, Queensbridge Houses, sits next to Amazon’s proposed new complex.

[Via NY Daily News]


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