Workers in a recently opened Staten Island Amazon warehouse have announced their intention to unionize. The news comes at a less than ideal time for the retail giant, which is in the midst of opening one of two “HQ2” locations in nearby Long Island City, Queens.
The push also arrives as Amazon has faced increased scrutiny over the treatment of employees in its fulfillment centers. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders applied pressure against CEO Jeff Bezos, finally convincing the company to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour.
In an interview with Bloomberg, employees complained about working conditions and compared their treatment to robots. The employees are hoping to leverage the massive incentives the city dangled in an attempt to woo the company during its prolonged competition for a second headquarters. All told, incentives total around $3 billion, a fact that has caused consternation among citizens and local officials who were uninvolved in the decision-making process.
“There’s never been greater leverage — if taxpayers are giving Amazon $3 billion, then taxpayers have the right to demand that Amazon stop being a union-busting company,” the president of Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union told the site. “It’s incumbent upon the governor and the mayor to make sure that nothing happens to these workers who are standing up for their rights. If Amazon continues its union-busting activities in New York, they should call off the deal.”
The Staten Island warehouse has only been open for a few months, but is a key part in the company’s push to make a second home in the greater New York City area. It’s one that is expected to eventually include $2.5 billion in spending and 25,000 hires.