After Amazon employees at Staten Island scored an upset union victory last month, it turned the union’s leaders into celebrities, sent shock waves through the broader labor movement and prompted politicians to rally behind the country. Now it also appears to have created fallout within Amazon’s management ranks.
On Thursday, Amazon informed more than half a dozen senior managers were involved with the Staten Island warehouse that they were being fired, according to a report of four current and former employees who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
The firings, which occurred outside the company’s typical employee review cycle, were seen by managers and other people who worked at the facility as a response to the victory by the Amazon Labor Union, three of the people said. Workers at the warehouse voted by forming a wide margin to form the first union at the company in the United States, one of the largest victories organized labor in at least one generation.
Word of the shake-up spread through the warehouse on Thursday. Many of the managers have been responsible for implementing the company’s response to the unionization effort. Many were veterans of the company, with more than six years of experience, according to their LinkedIn profiles.
Workers who supported the union complained that the company’s health and safety protocols were too lax, especially as they related to Covid and repetitive strain injuries, and that the company pushed them too hard to meet performance targets, often at the expense of sufficient breaks. Many also said the pay at the warehouse, which starts at $ 18 per hour for full-time workers, was too low to live in New York City.
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An Amazon spokeswoman said the company made management changes after it spent several weeks evaluating aspects of “operations and leadership” at JFK8, which is the company’s name for the warehouse. “Part of our culture at Amazon is continually improving, and we believe it is important to take the time to review whether or not we are doing the best we can for our team,” said Kelly Nantel, the spokeswoman.
The managers were told they were being fired as part of an “organizational change,” two people said. One of the people said some of the managers were strong performers who recently received positive reviews.
The Staten Island facility is Amazon’s only fulfillment center in New York City, and for one year current and former workers at the facility are organizing an upstart, independent union.
The company is challenging the election, saying the union’s unconventional tactics were coercive and that the National Labor Relations Board was biased in favor of the union. And the union is working to maintain pressure on Amazon so it will negotiate a contract.
Christian Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, testified on Thursday before a US Senate committee that was exploring whether companies that violate labor laws should refuse federal contracts. Mr. Smalls later attended a White House meeting with other labor organizers in which he directly asked President Biden to press Amazon to recognize his union.
A White House spokeswoman said it was up to the National Labor Relations Board to confirm the results of the recent election but affirmed that Mr. Biden had long supported collective bargaining and unionized workers’ rights.
Amazon has said it has invested $ 300 million in safety projects in 2021 alone and that it provides pay-back with solid benefits like minimum wage to full-time workers like health care as soon as they join the company.
Company officials and consultants held more than 20 mandatory meetings per day with employees in the run-up to the election, in which they sought to persuade workers not to support the union. The officials highlighted the amount of money that the union would collect from them and emphasized the uncertainty of collective bargaining, which they said could leave workers worse off.
Labor experts say such claims can be misleading because it is extremely unusual for workers to see their compensation fall as a result of the union bargaining process.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Grace Ashford contributed reporting and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.