Amazon Sends Workers 'Safety' Warning About Unions

A 'safety' message Amazon sent to it Staten Island warehouse employees on Friday is its latest attempt at union-busting.
May 17, 2021, 4:24pm
Amazon staten island safety warning unions
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
On the Clock is Motherboard's reporting on the organized labor movement, gig work, automation, and the future of work.

Amazon sent a message to employees at its Staten Island warehouse Friday implying that a union drive at the facility that has attracted hundreds of workers in recent days is a "safety" threat to workers. 

"Your safety is our number one priority, and it's important to us that you feel safe while you're here—including when you're entering or leaving our facilities," the note to workers at the facility, titled "Important Safety Information," begins. 

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"Recently, we've noticed people standing in the road in front of the site attempting to speak to some of you while you are driving," the note continued. "Although they are wearing Amazon vests, they are not affiliated with and do not represent Amazon. Please be careful and know that our focus remains on your safety—and the safety of everyone involved." 

To be clear, Amazon warehouse jobs are notoriously dangerous for workers as Amazon itself has regularly admitted and investigations into workplace injuries have shown. But this "safety" message is not actually about workplace safety. It's the latest in a series of anti-union statements and messages that Amazon has been circulating at its Staten Island warehouse complex in order to derail a growing union drive led by Amazon Labor Union. 

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. 

The Amazon Labor Union campaign, unaffiliated with any major union, was launched by current and former Amazon workers in the wake of the defeat of a high stakes union drive in Bessemer, Alabama. Rather than keep their organizing a secret—as many unions do in the early stages—the union drive has been very public about their efforts. 

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Since late last month, Amazon has plastered bathroom stalls, entrances, and walkways at its Staten Island warehouse with anti-union propaganda, as hundreds of workers have signed union cards and visited the union's weekly barbecue set up on a public sidewalk outside the warehouse. Amazon's strategy, both in Staten Island and Bessemer, has been to present the union as a dubious and fiscally irresponsible outside organization. 

In one new message currently displayed on a TV monitor at the Staten Island warehouse, Amazon accuses the union of having both no experience and a history of financial wrongdoing.  

"AMAZON LABOR UNION (ALU) IS NOT SANCTIONED BY AMAZON: The ALU is not part of Amazon," it says. "Think twice before putting your future, your paycheck, and your benefits into the hands of an organization with no experience and a history of financial trouble." 

A worker filed an unfair labor practice charge against Amazon on Monday alleging this message violated the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits employers from preventing or discouraging employees to organize unions.

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The union has also reported Amazon has called the police and fire departments on organizers in recent days—and installed a fence that interferes with their ability to organize, according to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board. Amazon claims that its Staten Island landlord, Matrix Global Logistics, is responsible for the phone calls and the installation of the new fence.