Amazon has hired an anti-union consultant to combat a union drive at its largest New York City warehouse previously used by Trump International Hotels in 2015 to derail a union campaign among low-wage workers, new disclosures show.
The consultant Edward Echanique began working for Amazon in November to persuade workers against joining Amazon Labor Union, an independent union, at its Staten Island warehouse, according to forms filed with the Department of Labor on January 3.
It’s not uncommon for large companies who want to keep their employees from unionizing to hire expensive consultants specially trained to do just that. These consultants, who are part of the $340 million “union avoidance” industry, have historically been very successful in convincing workers to vote against unionization using scare tactics.
In 2015, Echanique worked for Trump’s Las Vegas hotel to combat a union drive led by housekeepers, service workers, and other low-wage employees, according to financial disclosures.
The Trump Hotel workers ultimately voted to unionize with UNITE HERE, but Trump Hotels spent at least $500,000 on the campaign to prevent Las Vegas workers from unionizing in the midst of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
During that campaign, the National Labor Relations Board found that Trump International Hotels illegally fired union supporters who wore union pins while promising new job opportunities for those who pledged not to support the union. Trump Hotels agreed to a settlement of $11,200 in one of the cases. When workers won the election, Trump Hotel in Las Vegas claimed the vote “was anything but free and fair” and attempted to overturn the election results.
Amazon also has taken an aggressive, overtly anti-union stance, in large part by hiring expensive consultants to crush union drives. Last year, Amazon killed a unionization effort (the first in U.S. history) at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama (though there will be another election there this year). Inspired by the workers’ efforts, Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island began organizing their own independent union, known as Amazon Labor Union.
For months, workers at the Staten Island facility have been signing union authorization cards at a tent outside the warehouse, known as JFK8. In October, workers filed for a union election at the warehouse with 2,000 signatures, but they withdrew the petition after not obtaining enough support to qualify for an election. The workers resubmitted their bid in late December. More than 5,000 workers are employed by the warehouse, but its workforce fluctuates widely throughout the year.
Amazon, meanwhile, has been waging a full-blown campaign against the unionization effort, bringing in anti-union consultants, displaying anti-union messages on monitors and posters, and holding mandatory anti-union meetings throughout its giant Staten Island warehouse during the work day.
In an audio recording of one of the meetings from November obtained by Motherboard, managers lectured on the disadvantages of joining a union and presented workers with disinformation about unions.
Anti-union consultants are typically required to submit disclosures to the Department of Labor within 30 days if they meet directly with employees to dissuade them from unionizing. (Companies often circumvent reporting requirements by having their own managers lead the trainings.)
Warehouse workers at Amazon’s Staten Island facility say union avoidance consultants have been in the warehouse since May of 2020, but Echanique is the first to file disclosures with the Department of Labor.
For more than two decades, Echanique has worked on anti-union campaigns for employers including Lowe’s, AAA, Hyatt Regency, Embassy Suites, and DirecTV, disclosures show.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.