ALU Newsletter #2: The Empire Strikes Back
11/5/2021 update from the Amazon Labor Union in Staten Island, NY
As you all know, last week we filed the petition for the union election with the NLRB. ALU squad members showed up to the filing in Money Heist outfits (a worldwide symbol of resistance, camaraderie, and wealth redistribution), Chris wore the Salvador Dalí mask in the NLRB office, enough journalists followed in behind the ALU to startle the building security, dozens of supporters gathered outside in solidarity with Amazon workers, and a giant Jeff Bezos puppet loomed over the picketers.
There was a tremor in the force. The NLRB counted all of our signatures, published the notice of the ALU’s election petition, and set a date for a hearing with ALU and Amazon representatives regarding the election.
All of you should have received a notification link on A to Z (as required by law), sharing the NLRB notice, and there should also be notices posted in all of the buildings. Amazon’s lawyers asked to delay the NLRB hearing by two more weeks, claiming that they were unprepared (can you believe it?)—but Chris said nope, let’s do this. So the NLRB gave Amazon’s lawyers two extra days, and the hearing is now scheduled for November 17.
This will be an open hearing on Zoom, and we’ll share the link with everyone when we get it. Show up on Zoom if you can! We show our solidarity power with our numbers.
Meanwhile, in advance of the hearing, we’ve been gathering hundreds of additional signatures from workers, on top of the two thousand already collected—for the inevitable moment when Amazon lawyers claim that we don’t have enough. Management is ramping up the anti-union messaging at workers again, and now the bosses have brought in the highly paid professional “Persuaders”—the union busters—to try to scare and mislead workers into opposing a labor union made up of workers, representing all of us, with a legal duty to act in our best interests.
As former union buster Martin Jay Levitt wrote in Confessions of a Union Buster:
Union busting is a field populated by bullies and built on deceit. A campaign against a union is an assault on individuals and a war against the truth. As such, it is a war without honor. The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always, always, attack. The law does not hamper the process. Rather, it serves to suggest maneuvers and define strategies. Each “union prevention” campaign, as the wars are called, turns on a combined strategy of disinformation and personal assault.
The Union Busting Playbook
This campaign was entirely expected, and will intensify in the months ahead. Amazon’s executives are not going to let the workers assert our power without a fight, and they will continue to attack the ALU with a standard playbook of anti-union messaging. The union busters will try to talk to each and every Amazon employee to build skepticism about the union, pushing claims that the union is inexperienced (since the ALU is a new, independent union of Amazon workers), that it’s against worker interests (even though it’s a democratic organization by workers for workers), that it somehow takes away your rights or your voice (when in fact it provides a platform for all of our voices, for the sake of advancing our rights), and that union dues will be costly (even though they will be decided together as a group, after the new contract is negotiated, coming out of a tiny fraction of the wage gains we’ll win). And Amazon management will also try to play up the positives of working at Amazon, touting their below industry-average wages and benefits as “generous,” their rate-obsessed, robot managers as “caring,” and any bare minimum working accommodations as “perks.”
On the plus side, as a result of this union election drive, you should also expect to see Amazon escalate their “charm offensive,” and improve a number of minor things at the workplace over the coming months—in order to pacify workers, lower union voter turnout, and try to avoid the major improvements that we will win with the strength of ALU collective bargaining.
On the day of our last barbecue, Amazon gave out free chips to workers inside (one of the many things we give away at the tent every day). When we filed the petition, they installed a ping pong table and basketball hoop in the break room of DYY6. Now, a few more MTA buses are being added to the S40 schedule (we still demand a free direct shuttle). Some workers may be offered buyouts, others may receive small wage raises—all of this as a result of the union organizing, before we even make it to the bargaining table to demand what we deserve in a new contract. Enjoy these benefits of flexing our collective power—and keep up the struggle.
What little the Amazon executives give us, they will take away whenever they feel like it.
When a D-List Actor Wants to Get Rich…
Coworkers have already expressed concerns to ALU organizers about one union buster talking to people in JFK8. We’ve identified this consultant as David Acosta, a professional “Direct Persuader” who gets paid “$2,000/DAY PLUS EXPENSES” just to mislead workers—and who reported earning over $400,000 from union busting in 2017. Not a bad salary for a snake!
According to the union buster’s LinkedIn profile:
David Acosta has been involved in the Labor Relations field since 1997, working union election campaigns in over 30 different industries as a Direct Persuader and Senior Consultant with multiple persuaders… David developed an easy-to-follow tracking system for assessing employee-voting preference, which includes meeting attendance and vital information on each employee. He has created guidance programs for his clients enabling them to set up employee action teams, focus groups or round table counsels…
Acosta also claims that he has “worked as an actor in over 40 Hollywood films, theatrical productions and TV Shows.” We couldn’t identify him on IMDB, so that probably means he was an extra on one film, appeared in one TV pilot, and acted in 40 community theater plays…
So, Amazon flew this failed actor out from Los Angeles, and is paying for his hotel and lavish living expenses while he pretends to care about workers and schemes to undermine our ability to make a decent living. He proudly boasts about running a whole surveillance profile system to try to track our preferences and coerce us with “action teams” and “focus groups.” And he’s not the only consultant Amazon executives are paying to do this right now! They are paying tens of thousands of dollars a week to defeat our worker-led union and keep workers under their boot heel. Just imagine if Amazon spent that money actually making our lives better!
You’ve probably also seen the anti-union material showing up in bathrooms and break rooms. In response to Amazon’s flyer about knowing “the facts” about signing an ALU card, we made our own flyer that brings more honesty to this discussion of “the facts.” You can pick up copies at the ALU tent, but they may also find their way into the break areas soon…
We’ve also created some other materials highlighting the many ways that Amazon spies on and fights against its workers, including whistleblowers and union organizers. Amazon’s attacks on its employees’ rights have been documented by journalists and found in violation of the law by the NLRB.
We are not afraid of the Amazon management’s tactics, and you shouldn’t be either. But you should be vigilant. Amazon will certainly continue violating the law in order to undermine our collective efforts, just as they have consistently done until now, here in Staten Island and across the country—but we are documenting their violations and reporting each one to the NLRB. If any supervisor or consultant questions you about the union, you don’t have to say anything to them, and if they even subtly threaten, bribe, or coerce you in any way, document that and let one of the ALU organizers know! (You can email email@example.com.)