Amazon Employees Reject Forming Company’s First Union in U.S.

Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) won’t be getting its first labor union in the U.S.

The majority of 27 technicians at an Amazon fulfillment center in Middletown, Delaware, voted to reject an initiative to form a union under the auspices of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said John Carr, a spokesman for the IAMAW. The vote, held late yesterday, was 21 to 6.

“That number is a clear reflection that the tactics Amazon and their law firm employed were very effective,” Carr said. “Under the intense pressures these workers faced on the shop floor, it was an uphill battle all the way.”

The vote, the first of its kind at an Amazon fulfillment center, was scheduled last month after members of the group filed a petition to organize a union with the National Labor Relations board. The group of electricians, machinists and other engineers was unhappy about limited opportunities for promotion and a constantly rotating chain of managers, according to an employee involved in the unsuccessful organizing effort, who did not want to be named because he feared retribution. Many had transferred from an older nearby Amazon facility in nearby New Castle, Delaware.

‘Direct Connection’

The petition set off a month of lobbying inside Amazon. The Seattle-based online retailer hired the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, to aid it in the campaign and called meetings of the technicians to explain the company’s opposition to unions and ask for a second chance to resolve the dispute.

“With today’s vote against third-party representation, our employees have made it clear that they prefer a direct connection with Amazon,” Mary Osako, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement. “This direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the wants and needs of our employees.”

Amazon has successfully fought such efforts in the U.S. for years. In 2000, workers at a customer service call center in Seattle lobbied to form a union and met with resistance from the company. Amazon ultimately closed the facility during a broader retrenchment.

In cases over the years where labor organizers passed out union literature outside Amazon facilities and tried to foment union activity, managers reacted swiftly, meeting with workers and explaining the company’s strong opposition to organized labor.

Amazon is also fighting efforts by the European labor union Ver.di to organize work stoppages and demonstrations at its fulfillment centers in Germany. Workers there are lobbying for higher wages more in line with average compensation in the retail industry.

About 1,000 German Amazon workers have signed an anti-union petition, expressing concern their jobs would move elsewhere if the union efforts succeeded.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brad Stone in San Francisco at bstone12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Pui-Wing Tam at ptam13@bloomberg.net

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