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Amazon CEO Andy Jassy appears unwilling to accept the outcome of the historic union election in Staten Island that marked the first win by a union at an Amazon warehouse in the United States.
In an onstage interview at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on Wednesday, Jassy claimed “very disturbing irregularities” in the vote of workers at the JFK8 warehouse in New York City, and alluded to a prolonged battle with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which oversaw the election. Amazon had indeed contested the union victory, claiming more than 20 issues with the union’s behavior, including harassment of voters and how the NLRB ran and staffed the election. But an NLRB official who oversaw the objection hearing recently recommended that all of Amazon’s objections be thrown out and that the Amazon Labor Union win be certified. Jassy’s comments on Wednesday suggest Amazon will continue to battle the NLRB on the issue.
“I think that’s going to take a long time to play out because I think it’s unlikely the NLRB is going to [rule] against themselves,” Jassy said on Wednesday.
Amazon has until September 16 to file exceptions to the report. Based on Jassy’s comments, it seems likely the tech giant will. Even when the NLRB eventually certifies the election, the union fight is not over. US labor law does not mandate that Amazon agree to a deal with the union, only to bargain “in good faith.” Jassy’s comments on Wednesday suggest the company is very far off from engaging in such acts. In one breath, Jassy said that unionization is “not our choice” and something that “employees will decide;” in another, he seemed unwilling to accept what the majority of the Staten Island warehouse workers decided.
Jassy, as he has done in the past, talked up the company’s pay and benefits package — the starting average wage for Amazon workers is now more than $18 an hour — as a key reason why the company’s 1 million US workers don’t need union representation. He scoffed at the suggestion of just paying his staff $25 an hour, saying Amazon needs to run a sustainable business and essentially arguing the company wouldn’t be able to afford it.
“There is a limit to the economics you can pay and have a business that can be profitable,” he said.
Either way, Amazon warehouse workers in other locations like North Carolina and Albany, New York, are also organizing with the goal of forming or joining a union. The Teamsters union is also making organizing Amazon workers one of its top priorities.
Jassy, a 25-year veteran of the company who previously ran Amazon Web Services, inherited the CEO role from Jeff Bezos in July 2021 with the company seemingly at an inflection point. Customers were shopping on Amazon and watching its video streaming service in record numbers. But its longtime place as one of tech’s beloved companies was in danger as criticisms mounted from some politicians, labor groups, and even some of its own employees.
In the year-plus since, the company’s challenges have only grown. Amazon sales growth has slowed dramatically as more people returned to shopping and spending money on activities in the physical world, leaving the e-commerce giant with too many workers and too much warehouse space. As a result, Jassy has overseen a drastic retrenchment of the company’s warehousing network, pausing or canceling warehouse development projects totaling tens of millions of square feet.
Amazon has also been battling to keep politicians and regulators out of its way in Washington, DC, with Jassy himself traveling to the nation’s capital to make the case for his company in person. Amazon has spent heavily to fight a Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) that would give regulators the authority to sue tech giants like Amazon for business practices that favor their own products and services over those of third parties that do business on their platforms or that use non-public data from their own users to benefit their own services. But the bill has yet to receive a full Senate vote, with time running out ahead of the midterm elections. The Federal Trade Commission has also been probing Amazon since 2019 but has yet to confirm an investigation or file a lawsuit against the company.
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