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- Workers at a Seattle Amazon Fresh grocery launched the first union push at an Amazon retail store.
- A wave of labor activism is sweeping Amazon, including at three US warehouses with union drives.
- The Amazon grocery workers are asking for higher wages and a more flexible attendance policy.
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Workers behind the first union push at an Amazon retail store have asked management for higher pay, a more flexible attendance policy, longer breaks, and other benefits, according to an email shared with Insider.
They are also calling on a federal labor board to investigate whether Amazon violated labor law by removing pro-union literature from a break room and disciplining the employee who put it there.
The Fresh grocery store in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle is the latest part of the company’s empire to experience labor activism. Three US Amazon warehouses are in the midst of unionization campaigns, with votes at warehouses in Alabama and New York scheduled to conclude at the end of this month. Last June, the Teamsters approved a plan to organize Amazon warehouses and delivery drivers.
In Seattle, the Amazon Fresh workers are advocating for a $25 starting wage, less discipline around tardiness and absenteeism, longer paid breaks, chairs at checkout counters, and more rigorous training on diversity issues, sexual harassment and discrimination, according to the email, which was sent Tuesday. An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions.
The current starting pay for workers at the store is $18.25 an hour, according to job advertisements. Until Seattle lawmakers repeal a state of emergency declared at the start of the pandemic, pay at the store is boosted by a city hazard pay ordinance, which adds an extra $4 to grocery workers’ hourly wages.
Labor organizing is sweeping other retailers. Workers at more than 100 Starbucks locations are petitioning to form unions. Outdoor equipment retailer REI is also facing a union fight in New York City. Some other companies in the sector have already raised wages. Target just increased starting pay to up to $24 an hour. Costco made headlines last year when the CEO announced that over half its retail workforce makes more than $25 per hour.
Workers at the Seattle Amazon Fresh location are organizing independently under the moniker Amazon Workers United, unaffiliated with established grocery unions like United Food and Commercial Workers. The union drive kicked off in February after an employee, Joseph Fink, said they were disciplined by a manager for posting pro-union literature in the break room, Seattle’s KUOW reported.
Fink filed a complaint last month with the National Labor Relations Board over the incident. They lodged a second complaint with the board Tuesday, alleging that Amazon removed an NLRB settlement notice Fink posted that reminded workers of their right to unionize.
The NLRB required Amazon to post copies of the settlement, which included information about workers’ rights, in “prominent places” in some of its facilities, though not in its retail stores, until the end of February. The settlement, made public in December, stemmed from six workers’ allegations that Amazon had limited their rights to unionize.
Employees of the Seattle Amazon Fresh store have been meeting for months about possibly forming a union, Fink told Insider. The group decided to go public with their union push last month, before filing a petition to hold a union election, in part to “eradicate the climate of fear around the word ‘union,'” Fink said. “There’s already such a fearful work environment at Fresh. We wanted to have a different kind of narrative about our union.”
Amazon Workers Union doesn’t know yet when it will hold a formal election, Fink said. For now, the union is focused on educating workers about their rights to organize.