Amazon offering $2,000 ‘resignation bonuses’ to bust union drive in Alabama

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With union election underway, workers told they can quit now, get a bonus, and re-apply after the union vote is over

By MIKE ELK
Payday Report

AMAZON WORKERS and community allies demonstrate during a protest in front of the Manhattan residence of Jeff Bezos, former Amazon CEO and executive chair of the company’s board. – Kena Betancur/AFP photo

As the historic union election at Amazon in Alabama heats up, Amazon is pulling out all the tricks to stop the union.

In violation of Amazon’s social distancing policy, Amazon has forced workers to attend anti-union meetings and sent workers constant text messages daily, hinting that a union could possibly lead to the warehouse closing.

Amazon has even gotten the local authorities to shorten the times of stoplights outside of the plant so union organizers can’t hand out pro-union literature easily to workers passing in their cars.

OFFERING BONUSES (BRIBES) TO QUIT
Now, Amazon is doing something that Labor observers have never seen before in a union election – offering workers $2,000 “resignation bonuses” to quit.

SHOWING SOLIDARITY, participants hold signs and march on a picket line during a solidarity event in Manhattan showing support for Amazon workers in Bessemer, Ala. – Erik McGregor/LightRocket photo

Last week, workers throughout the plant received emails offering them bonuses to quit their jobs. The emails offer workers who have worked for two seasons at least $2,000 to quit. If workers have been there at least three peak seasons, they are being offered $3,000.

Some Amazon workers who dislike their jobs at the warehouse may find the bonuses a tempting bridge to quit their jobs and seek something better.  Workers are even being told that if they quit now, they could regain their jobs later. However, if workers quit now, they won’t be eligible to vote on the ongoing union election.

“That should be illegal. How can you pay someone to resign?” said Jennifer Bates, 48, an Amazon worker. “They are going all the way. They are pulling out all the stops.”

A BRIBE UNDER LABOR LAW
Under federal Labor law, the bonuses could be considered bribes and lead to the union election being thrown out. Employers are strictly forbidden from improving the material conditions of workers in the lead up to elections and the “resignation bonuses” could be grounds for the union to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to order a new union election if the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) loses this round.

“The NLRB routinely finds violations for ‘conferring benefits’ to induce employees not to vote for a union during the ‘critical period’ between the time the election petition is filed and the election is held,” said University of Wyoming Labor Law Professor Mike Duff, a former prosecutor for the NLRB.

However, the bonuses could backfire on Amazon. Some union supporters have used the offer of the bonuses to argue that Amazon could easily afford to pay workers more.

“If you know that they need it, why don’t you give it to them anyway as a bonus?” Bates asked.

Union organizers are nervous, but despite the intimidation and anti-union tactics, they aren’t deterred in their fight to unionize.

“I think there is this wall in front of me right now. And it’s because I can’t see what’s on the other side,” Bates said of the union election set to end on March 30. “And I think a lot of times in life, that’s when you really have to take a step. Just because you don’t see what’s on the other side doesn’t mean that’s not victory.”

(Mike Elk is founder and senior labor reporter for Payday Report. Reprinted from Payday Report.)

Biden backs Amazon workers’ unionization effort

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN lent his support to Amazon workers who are pushing to unionize — and appeared to warn Amazon not to deter them in a video message released Feb. 28. – Screencap of Biden’s video message.

Washington (PAI) – President Joe Biden has officially backed the union organizing drive at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala.

In a two-minute-20-second video he posted on twitter on Feb. 28, and an accompanying shorter tweet, Biden declared the choice by the 5,800 workers there is “vitally important” to both them and the country.

“Today and over the next few weeks, workers in Alabama, and all across America, are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace,” Biden declared in summing up his video message.

“This is vitally important–a vitally important choice–as America deals with the deadly pandemic, an economic crisis, the reckoning on race, what it reveals the deep disparities that still exist in our country.

“Unions put power in the hands of workers. They give you a stronger voice, they give you a stronger voice for your health, your safety, higher wages, protection from racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Unions lift up workers, both union and non-union, but especially Black and brown workers.”

Biden also stated that the federal government has a role in helping to promote unionization in the U.S.

“I made it clear when I was running that my administration’s policy would be to support unions and the right to collectively bargain. I’m keeping that promise,” Biden said. “You should all remember the National Labor Relations Act didn’t just say that unions are allowed to exist, it said we should encourage unions.”

DENOUNCES AMAZON’S UNION-BUSTING TACTICS
Biden also sharply denounced anti-worker, anti-union intimidation tactics such as those being employed by Amazon, including bribing workers to resign before the vote and reapply for their jobs, if they wish, after the union vote is over.

The Labor-backed Protect The Right To Organize (PRO) Act would curb or outlaw such tactics.

“Let me be really clear: It’s not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union,” Biden said. “But let me be even more clear: It’s not up to an employer to decide that either. The choice to join a union is up to the workers

“There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda,” Biden said. “No supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences.”

Labor historians hailed the speech as a landmark turning point in how presidents help unions.


 

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